Let’s Talk About… Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (Spoiler-Free)

I am so excited to be back to reading hard copies of books for summer break! I have so much on my TBR list, and I love it. Modern Lovers is one that I picked up on a discount in Boston because I loved Emma Straub’s last novel, The Vacationers. I started this book on my travel day back to Vegas with my family, and finished it pretty quickly. The characters were all so sweet and intriguing. Modern Lovers is a s story about the complications of love and life, and the themes incorporate parallels between the way love is experienced in adolescence and middle age.

This is spoiler-free so you don’t have to be afraid to read on. I am also not going to include the Goodreads synopsis because what I’ve written is basically a glorified blurb! Read on and I’ll be back with another review (*teaser alert* Lord of Shadows) soon.

Back in college, Zoe, Andrew, and Elizabeth were in a punk band together with another member, Lydia—an oddly untalented musician who got famous after releasing a song Elizabeth wrote for the band as her breakout single. Elizabeth and Andrew have been living off of royalty checks, Lizzie’s real estate career, and sometimes Andrew’s family money (cuz he’s technically filthy rich). Years earlier, Lydia passed away from a drug overdose and now, a production company out in Hollywood wants to make a biopic about Lydia’s time in college, the time just before she made it big as a rock star. Elizabeth is ready almost immediately to sign over her life rights and be represented by a young actress on screen. She doesn’t have anything to hide, to be ashamed about. Andrew on the other hand, does have a secret that he is not ready to reveal to his wife because he thought he would never have to tell her. But when Elizabeth makes that impossible, he has to tell her the truth at last.

Elizabeth and Andrew have been married since they were fresh out of college, and now they have a well-behaved teen aged son, Henry. Elizabeth sees the way her best friend Zoe’s relationship is failing and starts to question her own. Andrew is going through his own midlife crisis, he’s never held down a career and now he just wants to figure out what to do next. He starts working with a yogi who may or may not be running an illegal business in the neighborhood. Andrew is desperately trying to find somewhere he can fit in, but that desperation causes him to make a few bad decisions.

Zoe and Jane have been together for about 2 decades, not quite as long as Lizzie and Andrew, but still quite a long time as a same sex couple who couldn’t always be married the same way as their neighbors/friends. Their only daughter, Ruby, is a recent high school graduate that has no plans to further her education or really do anything in the near future. She has no plan, but she feels pretty strongly that she will leave home, until she starts dating Henry. While dating Ruby, Henry develops his own rebellious streak, something his parents are not used to: he lies, sneaks out at night, starts having sex. It’s all very new for everyone, but also very familiar.

I believed these characters, and I think that’s the best part about the novel. Sure, the plot was a bit cheesy and unrealistic. It’s not normal for any random person to have to sign life rights so they can be a character in a film. It’s also not that normal, I don’t think so anyways, for a group of friends to live so close to each other for the majority of their lives. I liked that every single character, and there were a lot to keep track of, has an arc. They all showed a large amount of change and development over the few short months of the summer. The ending was pretty plot-convenience-heavy, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Modern Lovers is a fun, short, feel-good summer read and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story and each of the characters.

Let me know what you thought of Modern Lovers in the comments below, or if you are interested in reading it after this!

Katie x

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