All Adults Here by Emma Straub

All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Publisher/Year: Riverhead Books, 2020
Format: Hardcover, B&N Edition
Pages: 370
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Coming of age isn’t just for kids

Astrid Strick–mother to three grown-up children–has been keeping a secret. Just as she is finally warming up to share her secret with her family, a forgotten memory from her younger parenting days is jostled loose, and it’s not a good one. The secrets are multiplying, it seems, and so are her mistakes. Suddenly, Astrid realizes, she may not have been quite the parent she always thought she was. But to what consequence? And is it too late to set things right?

Astrid’s youngest son, Nicky, is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her single daughter, Porter, is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence in time to greet a baby. And Astrid’s eldest, Elliot, seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which were the mistakes that mattered? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.

Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in this deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.

What I thought

I LOVED this book. Absolutely loved it. If you love character-driven stories, like I do, then make sure to get your hands on a copy of this one. This book has so many layers, it would make a perfect book club selection. Straub explores so many topics: family dynamics, the lasting effects that parents can have on their children, how parent-child relationships change with age, sibling relationships, reckoning with the mistakes we make, love, gender, forgiveness, the list goes on. And while some readers found this to be “too much,” I thought Straub wrote with ease about, simply put, life. She really puts a finger on humanity, and her writing of this story amazed me. Life is crazy and beautiful and messy, and Straub perfectly exemplified that with this book. I loved every single character here, and they all felt so true-to-life and real to me that I feel truly sad that my time with them is through.

If you prefer stories that are solely plot-driven, then this book might not be for you. But if you are like me and enjoy reading about characters just trying to make it through this thing we call life, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I am going to be scrambling to get my hands on Straub’s other books because I have a feeling she’s going to be a favorite author of mine, based off of how much I loved this book!

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
Publisher/Year: Random House, 2020
Format: Hardcover (B&N Bookclub Edition)
Pages: 410
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing–and conjuring curses–are at the heart of this dazzling first novel.

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning generations, it explores the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healer; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsepts as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women come to a head at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear, spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.

Richly imagined, brilliantly researched, magnificently written, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and how far they will go to save themselves and those they love.

What I thought

This novel was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, so I was so excited when Barnes & Noble picked it as a book club selection. And I was not disappointed! As a debut novel, Conjure Women blew me away with its brilliance, and I have to admit, I am bummed to not have been able to meet and discuss this with my usual crew. There were so many layers to this story and so much to take away from it that this is one of those books where I feel like it’s almost necessary to read it again and again to truly grasp it all. And I absolutely could do that. Afia Atakora’s writing was so stunning and atmospheric that I was transported as I read. This was my ideal historical fiction read.

I could go on and dive into all the layers of this book, but I feel like I’d just end up rambling about how much I loved this book. I just cannot get over the fact that Conjure Women is a debut novel. If her first novel was any indication, I am immensely looking forward to whatever Afia Atakora writes next. Fans of historical fiction–get your hands on this one!