Book Review: Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Summary: Beach read about rich hipsters in Brooklyn. Not a lot happens. But like in a good way?
Pair with: A sun hat and a cold corona.
I’ve been seeing Emma Straub everywhere! Her book, The Vacationers, was the book of the summer in 2014 and Modern Lovers seemed to follow suit last year. I’m a little behind the times just getting to it now, but I’ve had my eye out for it at the library for ages. I finally had some downtime on a quick trip to Florida a little while back and brought it along. Here are my thoughts, if you’re thinking of picking it up…
Modern Lovers follows two couples and their children in Brooklyn during one pivotal, modern-day summer. The season brings up former flames for the parents, a burgeoning romance for their teenage kids, and havoc wreaked by a now deceased bandmate. The whole novel has a nostalgic vibe – a ‘back when Brooklyn was affordable’ feel to it – and all of the characters hit some sort of hipster aesthetic: a culinary lesbian couple, unhappy Oberlin college sweethearts, nerdy white kid smoking weed for the first time, etc. It’s an ode to marital droughts, city kids with rich parents, and college glory days dripping with references to Brooklyn architecture, homemade kombucha, and woodworking as a legitimate hobby. I can totally see why it caught the attention of the NYC lifestyle blogosphere.
This may sound weird, but what I liked the most about the novel was that nothing really happened. I mean, obviously things happened, but the plot felt very low stakes. I had to do a double take at the twists and turns of the plot to realize they were even the twists and turns. The constant rotation of characters kept their emotions at arm’s length. I never felt particularly invested in their struggles and it was as if the characters themselves didn’t take their first world problems too seriously, either.
Unfortunately, the end seemed rushed and the conflict resolution was pretty half-hearted. It felt like there was a lot more to the story that got edited out. But’s not like I was really invested in a particular outcome anyway…
It may sound like I didn’t like the book, but I did! To me, Modern Lovers is the perfect beach read: light and engaging enough that you want to pick it up, but not too intense where you never put it back down again. Enough drama to keep my brain occupied, but I was never stressed out. A lovely, summer slice of upper-class life and a very relaxing read.
Have you read Modern Lovers? Agree or do you think I’m totally off-base? Would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!