#TheEverygirlReads: No Deep Thoughts in ‘Modern Lovers’

Another month, another book! For August’s #TheEverygirlReads book, I chose to read Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, her second hit novel since The Vacationers flew off shelves in 2014.

In Modern Lovers, Zoe, Elizabeth, and Andrew are middle-aged friends with middle-aged responsibilities, children and all. They met at Oberlin College in the ‘80s, and along with another fellow student, Lydia, formed a band called Kitty’s Mustache that earned them mild notoriety. Their lives are much more nondescript now: Elizabeth and Andrew got married and had a son, Zoe married a woman and they adopted a daughter. Lydia became the most famous of the bunch.

The book follows the adults as they deal with marriage, money, love, and getting older. It follows their children as they deal with dating, school, love, and—you guessed it—getting older.

As I started reading, I didn’t expect to love (or even like) the book. The dialogue felt forced and cheesy, the descriptions and interactions over-simplified. I felt like I was reading a book written for children, minus the very adult themes the book discussed. It also irked me to think about these supposedly normal people living in multi-million dollar Victorian homes in Brooklyn (though it became clear early-on that family money helped out quite a bit, which irked me in a different way).

 Her characters are quirky, neurotic, intensely funny, and just trying to do their best despite their many (MANY) flaws.

I decided to ride it out and kept reading, and without even realizing it I was halfway through the book in a matter of hours. Emma Straub’s writing is simple but compulsively readable—the very definition of beach read material, and what’s wrong with that? Her characters are quirky, neurotic, intensely funny, and just trying to do their best despite their many (MANY) flaws.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective. I don’t usually enjoy this method of storytelling, but Straub uses it very strategically. I remember being especially struck early on in the book as Zoe’s wife, Jane, narrated a short chapter. It became painfully clear just how differently two people can see the same situation, even if you’re married and have pledged to love each other forever.

I still rolled my eyes at plenty of the book’s writing (“It was the most beautiful dress Harry had ever seen. It wasn’t just a dress; it was a religion. It was an erupting volcano that would kill hundreds of pale-faced tourists, and Harry was ready for the lava to flow.”) but I was so entertained that my eye-rolls stayed good natured and amused.

We only have a few weeks left of summer. I like a good intellectual read as much as the next girl, but you won’t see me stretched out in the sun reading Tolstoy. Modern Lovers isn’t going to win a Pulitzer, and I couldn’t recommend it enough to accompany your poolside rosé.

See you later! I’m headed to the beach.

Want to continue with #TheEverygirlReads 2016 challenge?

For the month of September, I’ll be reading Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. The heavily anticipated novel was released early after earning an Oprah’s book club nod. The book reimagines the secret network that ushered slaves out of the Antebellum South to be a real railroad equipped with locomotives and conductors. It’s the first #TheEverygirlReads book we’ve read this year written by (gasp!) a man, but I love Colson Whitehead and am excited to see what the book brings.

What are you reading this month? Share your picks on social media using #TheEverygirlReads to keep the conversation going!

  • I appreciate your honesty, honestly. It was quite refreshing! Which book would you pick out of the two? The Vacationers or Modern Lovers. I want to read one more summer book!
    Best,
    Bri

  • Bridget

    Daryl, your book reviews are the best! They’re always honest and on point, and I wish there were more of them.

  • I have actually just started reading Modern Lovers this week. I do agree that the dialogue is a little bit on the cheesy side, but I do like Straub’s writing style. I read the Vacationers early this summer and loved it; I’m hoping to love this one too as I read further!

    Ashley | Sunday Brunch

  • Katherine

    Zoe wasn’t adopted as it’s mentioned in the book. She’s biologically Zoe’s daughter and Jane’s niece (sperm from Jane’s brother).

    I didn’t love the book. Never really drew me in – couldn’t care much about the characters.

  • Tammy

    I listened to this book on Audible and I finished this book in less than two days and it was superb. I hope they make it into a movie. I loved all the characters and I appreciated that they were flawed and real.

  • I felt the same way about The Vacationers, if you haven’t read it yet! Light, summery and fun but not terribly thought-provoking, without being too fluffy for me to enjoy. I will definitely be joining yon reading The Underground Railroad this month! It was second place for my book club’s September book (sadly), but I’ve already the book we picked, so I’m going to read Whitehead’s new book anyway. 🙂

  • Sarah Tankersley

    What’s the October book for #theeverygirlreads ??