cover image Other People We Married

Other People We Married

Emma Straub. Riverhead, $15 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59448-606-7

Though fresh and satisfying insights can surface in even the most common terrain, this debut story collection, from the daughter of horror heavyweight Peter Straub, offers little originality or wit. Despite the stories taking place in different locations, what the characters encounter along the way remains provincial, the circumstantial and geographic territory covered ringing all too familiar. Set in the Midwest, “Some People Must Really Fall in Love,” presents a young female professor with a crush on one of her students. In “Rosemary,” set in Brooklyn, a new mother’s beloved cat flees after the baby is born. In the title story, Franny’s best friend is a gay man who awkwardly accompanies her and her husband on a Martha’s Vineyard vacation. “Puttanesca,” by contrast, is a delight: Stephen and Laura met through their bereavement counselor, having each lost a significant other when young. Despite a trip to Italy, Laura in particular remains in the shadow of her dead husband, and in this there is tenderness and intrigue. “Orient Point” follows an unlikely couple and their baby to Long Island. Though it’s the shortest of the collection, it’s also the strongest, nailing both a humor and an inevitable loss that is never quite realized in the other stories. Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler, Brick House. (Feb.)