In a family saga about personal awakenings and shape shifting, it’s always best if one finds each character appealing. That surely is the case in Emma Straub’s new novel, All Adults Here (Riverhead Books). The multigenerational clan of Stricks is vivid, understandable and relatable. We know their angst, we understand their secrets. From grandmother to grandchild, their experiences and reactions are visceral.

The inciting incident (no spoiler) is when a long time resident of Clapham, a small, pleasant Hudson River town, is suddenly killed in a bus accident. For Astrid Strick, a lead in the story, who at the age of 68 is a widow, mother, grandmother and local, the event is profound. It triggers her decision to reveal her sexual identity to her adult children and let them know she is in a relationship with Birdie. The announcement is quite a risk because Astrid, like many Boomer mothers, has adult children whose opinions really count; they matter to her. She is accustomed to pleasing her children and placating others, and this sort of revision of her own life isn’t what would be expected of her. Is there even room for it in anyone’s schedule? Besides, her children’s lives are complicated enough without any sort of news from their mother, let alone Astrid’s particular proclamation.

How can Astrid’s three children, a daughter Porter, and two sons, Elliot and Nicky, not be immersed in their own dramas? Porter’s decision to have a child without a partner is notable and the affair she is having with her now married-with-children former boyfriend, is a reminder of the choices she has made and her patterns of behavior. Throughout she is sorting out her relationship with her mother and is an adoring aunt to her niece, Cecelia, who has come to live in Clapham. Porter’s brothers, too, struggle with their choices, misapprehensions and attitudes. As the novel progresses, they come to face where they have landed as a result. The roller coaster of family life for every member as they age — and hopefully mature — is shown to us through distinctive storylines. The author takes us inside each character’s head to a place where remembrance, revision and new chances all exist together.

Other novelists who write rich family tales — Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout — came to mind during this read. Thus the issues raised in All Adults Here — discerning depictions of mortality, fidelity, gender, friendship, siblings, motherhood, romance, regret — resonate for the reader and evoke strong emotions and reactions.

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Photograph by Jennifer Bastian

Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of three other novels The Vacationers, Modern Lovers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her books have been published in twenty countries. She and her husband own Books Are Magic, an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, New York.