With end-of-semester demands drastically increasing, I found myself craving a light, easy read, and the bright turquoise spine of Modern Lovers seemed to be calling my name. Thus, I escaped the university insanity and transported myself to summertime Brooklyn in the hopes of enjoying a cute summery story. But Modern Lovers was a bit different than what I anticipated.
From the back cover:
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 to their own offspring. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose can never be reclaimed.
“Choices were easy to make until you realized how long life could be.”
-Emma Straub, Modern Lovers
Quirky yet one-dimensional hipsters make up our cast of characters. There is Elizabeth, a near-50 year old real estate agent stuck in a rut, and her husband Andrew, who faces a mid-life crisis and, during an attempt to find a new life’s purpose, becomes entranced by a hip new co-op in the neighborhood. There is former college bandmate Zoe, grappling with the fact that her marriage is in shambles, and her wife Jane, an eccentric chef with whom Zoe operates a trendy Brooklyn restaurant called Hyacinth. Adolescent Harry, son of Elizabeth and Andrew, experiments with becoming the “cool” teenager his parents once were and begins a relationship with childhood friend Ruby, daughter of Zoe and Jane and a recent high school graduate struggling to decide how she wants to spend the rest of her life. Together, these characters represent the complexity of human relationships, but individually, they lack development and seem engulfed by a singular aspect of their personality.
The plot of Modern Lovers seemed a bit confused. Without getting into spoilers, I feel like a lot of different events were haphazardly thrown in but not fully explored like they should’ve been. I enjoyed the book and its quick wittiness, but I think it could’ve been more than just a “beach read” had it gone into a bit more depth and gave more background on the various characters and their complicated history.
“Why couldn’t everyone just stay young forever? If not on the outside, then just on the inside, where no one ever got too old to be optimistic.”
-Emma Straub, Modern Lovers
Modern Lovers truly is a book about (yes, you guessed it) modern lovers, in every sense of the word. Straub deeply explores every kind of relationship: husband and wife, friend and lover, even cat and owner. She expertly examines human nature, what drives and motivates us, in a way that helped me gain perspective on some of my own relationships. Overall, I can say that I enjoyed Modern Lovers for what it is: a light beach read, but I went into it hoping for more and came out disappointed.