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Modern Lovers

Cover of Modern Lovers

Modern Lovers

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
An NPR Best Book of 2016
An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016
A Slate Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Pick

"Ms. Straub writes with such verve and sympathetic understanding of her characters. . .[An] entertaining novel. . . deftly and thoughtfully written." – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"It's 'Friends' meets 'Almost Famous' meets the beach read you'll be recommending all summer." –TheSkimm
"Straub serves up a perfect slice of the zeitgeist with this entertaining novel about former college bandmates raising their precocious children while grappling with marital tensions and midlife crises." –People, Named one of "Summer's Best Books"

From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college— and what it means to finally grow up, well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
An NPR Best Book of 2016
An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016
A Slate Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Pick

"Ms. Straub writes with such verve and sympathetic understanding of her characters. . .[An] entertaining novel. . . deftly and thoughtfully written." – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"It's 'Friends' meets 'Almost Famous' meets the beach read you'll be recommending all summer." –TheSkimm
"Straub serves up a perfect slice of the zeitgeist with this entertaining novel about former college bandmates raising their precocious children while grappling with marital tensions and midlife crises." –People, Named one of "Summer's Best Books"

From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college— and what it means to finally grow up, well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Zoe heard some shouting from the house. She shut the radio off and rolled down the window. Ruby and Jane both hustled out the front door, Ruby in the white fringe dress and Jane in a mask of disbelief.

    "Are you kidding me with this?" Jane said, poking her head into the passenger-side window.

    "Mom, God, it's just a dress," Ruby said, slumping into the backseat. "That is definitely not an entire dress." Jane let herself collapse into the seat, her heavy body rocking the small car as she pulled the door shut and buckled her seat belt. She spoke without turning to face Zoe. "I can't believe you agreed to let her wear that."

    "I'm right here, you know," Ruby said.

    Jane kept staring straight ahead. "Let's just go. I can't even."

    Zoe put the car in reverse. She caught Ruby's eye in the rearview mirror. "We're so excited for you, sweetie."

    Ruby rolled her eyes. It was an involuntary gesture, like breathing, an automatic response to whatever her mothers said. "I can tell," she said. "You could always just drop me off with Chloe's family, they're going to the River Café for dinner."

    "The River Café isn't what it used to be," Jane said. "Those stupid Brooklyn Bridge chocolate cakes. It's for tourists."

    "I know," Ruby said, and turned to look out the window.

    When they got to the school, Jane hopped out and switched places with Zoe—someone was going to have to circle the block to find a parking spot, and they both knew that Ruby would have a meltdown if she had to drive past her school three hundred times before going inside. All the seniors and their families were milling around in front and in the lobby, everyone dressed like they were going to the prom. Whitman didn't have a prom, of course—that was too square, too suburban. Instead they had a party with the entire faculty in a converted loft space in Dumbo. Zoe was waiting for the e-mail to go out that the students and teachers had been caught having a group orgy in the bathroom. Most of the teachers looked like they could have been students, maybe held back a couple of grades. The young men almost always grew scruffy little beards or goatees, probably just to prove that they could. Ruby had skipped the party, "Because eww," which Zoe secretly agreed with.

    Zoe let Ruby lead her through the crowd in front of the school, weaving in and out. She nodded and waved to the parents she knew, and squeezed the arms of some of the kids. It was a small school, and Ruby had gone there since she was five, and so Zoe knew everyone, whether or not Ruby deigned to speak to them. Ruby's intermittently loving and cruel cluster of girlfriends—Chloe, Paloma, Anika, and Sarah—were already inside, posing for pictures with their parents and siblings, and Zoe knew that Ruby was likely to ditch her and Jane for her friends as soon as possible. Impending-graduation hormones made regular puberty hormones seem like nothing—Ruby had been a lunatic for months. They went inside through the heavy front door, and Zoe saw Elizabeth and Harry across the lobby.

    "Hey, wait," she said to Ruby, pointing. Ruby reluctantly slowed to a stop and crossed her arms over her chest.

    "Ruby! Congratulations, sweetheart!" Elizabeth, bless her, couldn't be stymied by Ruby's death stares. "That dress looks phenomenal on you. Yowza!" Zoe watched her daughter soften. She even managed to squeeze out a tiny smile.

    "Thanks," Ruby said. "I mean, it's just high school. It's really not that big of a deal. It's really only a big deal if you don't graduate from high school, you know what I mean? Like, I also learned how to walk and to use a fork."...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 14, 2016
    Back in the 1980s at Oberlin College, in Ohio, Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe, and Lydia had a band called Kitty’s Mustache. Elizabeth wrote a song called “Mistress of Myself”; Lydia sang it and made it famous, but she died of a heroin overdose at age 27. Two decades later, Elizabeth and Andrew are married and have a son, Harry. Living nearby in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood are Zoe and her wife, Jane, with their daughter, Ruby. They own a neighborhood restaurant called Hyacinth. Midlife crises are roiling both marriages: Zoe and Jane are considering divorce; Andrew, the scion of wealthy parents, has never held a meaningful job and is now bemoaning his failure to find fulfillment, and Elizabeth sells real estate in Ditmas and feels responsible for everyone. To further complicate matters, teenagers Harry and Ruby suddenly discover sex. Into this volatile mix comes a Hollywood producer who’s making a movie about Lydia and urgently needs the former band members to sign over their rights to the iconic song. Straub (The Vacationers) spins her lighthearted but psychologically perceptive narrative with a sure touch as she captures the vibes of midlife, middle-class angst and the raging hormones of youth. Straub excels in establishing a sense of place: the narrative could serve as a map to gentrified Brooklyn; it’s that detailed and visually clear. Events move at a brisk pace, and surprises involving resurgent passion enliven the denouement. Readers will devour this witty and warmly satisfying novel. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment.

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Emma Straub
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