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Emma Straub's Modern Lovers

StraubModern Lovers, by Emma Straub, is a whimsical look at marriage and middle age. Elizabeth, Zoe, and Andrew were college friends and former band members. They are now approaching 50 and coming to terms with all that entails. Elizabeth and Andrew married after college and Zoe and Jane bonded over good cuisine and married soon afterward. While Andrew lives off his trust money and dapples in various careers, Elizabeth retires her guitar for a real estate license. She proves very adept at selling condos in Manhattan and homes in Brooklyn. In describing her job, the reader gets a taste of Straub’s quick wit:

<blockquote>No one was ever interested in the business part of Elizabeth’s job—all anyone ever wanted to know was if she found people’s sex toys and whether the sellers were getting a divorce. No one wanted to buy bad juju. Shopping for a new place to live was easier than shopping for a new husband or wife, and less traumatic than going into analysis. (p. 43)</blockquote>

But late middle age finds the marriages of both couples lacking passion. Similarly, the restaurant is zapping every ounce of energy from Elizabeth and Jane, Elizabeth is living her life through those of her clients, and Andrew is, yet again, seeking a challenge. Complicating life further is the romance between their teenage children. When an upcoming movie of the band and one of its now-dead members is about to be made, secrets from the past are revealed and change is imminent.

In the hands of a lesser author, Modern Lovers would seem trite. But Straub has written a delightful summer romp and captures the angst that is part of life at any stage.

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