60 pages • 2 hours read
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All Adults Here is a piece of contemporary fiction by Emma Straub. Published in 2020 by Riverhead Books, All Adults Here is a New York Times bestseller, and a selection for the Read with Jenna book club. Straub draws from the tropes of domestic fiction, LGBTQ+ fiction, and contemporary fiction to develop her story of a family that finally comes together to heal their pasts and live in the present and for the future. Straub is the best-selling author of Modern Lovers (2016), The Vacationers (2014), Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures (2012), and This Time Tomorrow (2022). She is the daughter of iconic horror writer Peter Straub and owns an independent bookstore called Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York.
This guide refers to the 2020 Riverhead Kindle edition.
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Content Warning: All Adults Here has a transgender character, Robin, whose gender identity is kept a secret throughout much of the book; as such, she is identified using he/him pronouns in the novel and is referred to as August for much of the narrative. This guide uses she/her pronouns and the character’s chosen name throughout the text.
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Astrid Strick, the matriarch of the Strick family, is 68 years old and at the beginning of a new chapter in her life. Long widowed, with her children all grown and out of the house, Astrid starts living for herself. She has fallen in love with a woman named Birdie, but they’ve kept their relationship a secret from the public. Astrid’s life changes when Barbara Baker, a fellow Clapham, New York townsperson she’s known for decades, is struck by a school bus in the center of town. Barbara and Astrid are of similar ages, so Barbara’s sudden death moves Astrid to live her life more authentically.
Astrid’s oldest son Elliot lives in Clapham with his wife Wendy and their twin toddlers, whose misbehavior stresses the couple out. Elliot owns a successful construction business. He has recently (and secretly) bought a building in Clapham’s town center, which will give him cultural control over what happens to Clapham’s businesses. But Elliot isn’t sure what to do with this lucrative opportunity. He is unfulfilled in his marriage and family life, even though he has sought to perfect his life by society standards.
Astrid’s daughter Porter lives in Clapham, where she runs a goat dairy farm. Porter is single and pregnant. She has made the decision to use a sperm bank and go through IVF to become a single mom. Porter desperately wants to become a mother, and relationships with men in the past haven’t worked out for her. Porter is nervous to tell her traditional family, who might judge her for her decision.
Astrid’s youngest son Nicky lives in Brooklyn. He rarely goes back to Clapham and lives a pacifist, Buddhist-inspired lifestyle. But his 13-year-old daughter Cecelia has recently gotten into trouble with her friends at school. Cecelia’s best friend Katherine developed a relationship with an adult she met online. When Cecelia reported this to the adults in her life to save Katherine from certain abuse, Katherine twisted the story and made it seem like Cecelia was also involved with the man. Cecelia is bullied so much that both her school and her parents decide it’s best for her to leave. Nicky sends her to Clapham to live with his mother and start anew at the junior high school in Clapham. This decision fills Cecelia with shame and makes her feel abandoned by her beloved parents.
When Cecelia arrives in Clapham, Astrid decides to reveal her relationship to Birdie to her family. Everyone is surprised but happy for Astrid, except for Elliot. Cecelia starts school and befriends Robin, a transgender girl who is outwardly presenting as male using her birth name of August and who only had friends when she was at summer camp. Porter runs into an old friend from high school named Rachel. Rachel is also single and pregnant; she separated from her husband after he cheated on her.
Astrid can sense that Elliot is struggling with Astrid’s new relationship, so she tries to reach out to him, but he pushes her away. Meanwhile, Porter has restarted an affair with her high school boyfriend, Jeremy, who lives in Clapham with his wife and two children. Porter reveals her pregnancy; her family worries about her life as a single mother because they know how difficult parenthood is.
As the Strick family deal with their internal conflicts and external pressures, Robin confides in Cecelia, revealing her name and that she is a transgender girl. Cecelia supports her and keeps her gender identity a secret. Robin and Cecelia join the junior high school’s parade crew to design and build a float for the town’s annual Harvest Festival. Meanwhile, Nicky struggles with his decision to send Cecelia away. He wanted to give her a fresh start, but he feels incomplete without her.
As Birdie grows closer to the Strick family, Astrid becomes more secure with her new life. She wonders if Elliot’s hesitation to accept this new situation is due to the fact that when Elliot was 14 years old, Barbara Baker called Astrid to report that she had seen Elliot kissing another boy. Astrid told Barbara she must have been mistaken, and then told Elliot not to be open about it, and left it at that. Now that Astrid has considered her own sexuality as a spectrum, she worries that she created shame around Elliot’s sexuality. In truth, Elliot is resentful towards his mother because while he was studying to become a lawyer, he overheard his mother tell his father that she didn’t think he’d be good at it.
At school, Jeremy’s daughter Sidney discovers the truth about Robin. She brings it up in a taunting way at school, and Cecelia punches her in the face. This causes some tension between Porter and Jeremy. Porter has been considering ending things with Jeremy, especially because Rachel is angry with Porter for being the other woman—the very thing that tore apart her own marriage. Porter struggles to reckon with her lost youth and projects her insecurity onto her relationship with Jeremy, who will not leave his wife for Porter despite her hopes. Finally, Porter breaks up with him and reestablishes her friendship with Rachel.
Nicky and his wife go to Clapham to reunite with Cecelia. At the Harvest Festival, Robin comes out as her true self on the junior high float. She is flooded with support and cheers. Elliot tells his mother the truth about the source of his resentments, and they mend their relationship. Astrid comforts Porter when Jeremy’s wife confronts Porter about the affair, giving Porter the positive affirmation she’s always needed. Thus, the Strick family comes together and heals their wounds.
Astrid and Birdie get married, and Porter gives birth to a girl. Elliot reinvigorates his marriage and decides not to turn his building into a corporate hair studio that would put Birdie out of business. Ultimately, All Adults Here demonstrates that families are powerful when they come together through unconditional love and self-acceptance.
By Emma Straub