I was recently getting my haircut and reading P.J. Vernon’s Bath Haus (I’m terrible at chatting with hair stylists and so I read a book). I’m not usually concerned about being seen reading whatever I’m reading, but in this self-described ‘thriller’ (I should amend my title) there are many, many scenes describing sexy things and murderous things and I kept imagining the stylist reading over my shoulder and judging me OR being so engaged that she’d cut off my ear, which is to say, the book had me on edge.
By the mid point of the book it’s not particularly challenging to sort out the whodunit behind the thriller bits, but there is sufficient tension and slow drip of information to make you want to keep reading. Plus it was – for me at least – a novel plot to have a gay couple maybe murdering and being thriller like. Plus a very mean mom character, which, as I understand it, always does turn the children into criminals.
It’s a good book for vacation, and with a few weeks left of summer, you could do worse. But also better. So… maybe? I don’t know. Like if the library has it on the shelf: get it. If you have to put it on hold and wait a week maybe don’t. And so ended the least helpful review of all time. Ever. The end.
For 90% of last year I thought I was 37. I was not. I was 36, so this year, when I *really* turned 37 it felt like a gift. Surprise! You get to be 37! Again! It does Not Bode Well for my memory.
You’d think being 37 a second time would mean I’d have adult-ing sorted out. And to be clear, I do. But whenever adult became a verb, I lost track of what it meant in the pop culture sense – something about being the one to empty the dish drain of all the chopped up bits of food and stringy what’s its. Probably it means being a little rich and having a cleaning person so if you don’t really want to clean the dish drain you don’t have to (I have just googled it, and I am right.)
Emma Straub’s All Adults Here isn’t much clearer about what it means, except to insist at various points in the novel that all the grown children are adults. It follows a folksy white family from a super small town – like it has scenes of literal protests to keep big box stores from buying in – and their ups and downs and inbetweens. Astrid, the matriarch, offers the most scandal in announcing in the early pages that she is bisexual (the drama! the scandal!). Oh and there’s a daughter who decides to have a baby on her own Out of Wedlock (the drama! the scandal!). And a son who was never properly loved by his father (I can’t even).
I shouldn’t make fun of it, but it just read as so quaint when the world is on fire to be fretting about maintaining the downtown core.
Oh but actually, now that I mention it, the book does have a lovely set of scenes with the teenage character, Cecelia, figuring out the difference between privacy and a secret, and making this particular adult worry *even more* about how to raise children in this world even if it wasn’t already actually on fire.
For all my griping about how earnest it is and how willing to have everything work out in the end, I did enjoy reading it. Probably because we’re all yearning to have everything work out in the end. If you can suspend the desire for something real, and instead embrace this fiction-on-a-fiction, the adult-ing, of being an adult, then I’d recommend. If nothing else it would make a good beach read: entirely unaffecting while also being engaging.
You know how some books would just be better with a vampire? Like all those remakes they did of 19th century novels they did with zombies (Pride and Prejudice AND ZOMBIES) but only from the beginning the author thought, yeah, this would be better with a vampire.
Actually I’m not totally sure Chanelle Benz’s The Gone Dead would be better with a vampire. I mean it’s really, really good to begin with, so… Right, here’s the plot: daughter, Billie, returns to childhood home after its bequeathed to her. On returning she begins to remember and question the circumstances of her father’s death (he died in the backyard when she was a child, and she was the only witness). Enter a cast of childhood friends, family, rivals and lovers. And the most adorable professor researching her father and his poetry. (Adorable for his representation of just how silly academia is when it comes to Life and Death). All trying to help or hinder her quest to remember and understand.
So I guess I only want a vampire because the book already has the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Mississippi Delta coupled with a murder mystery and the tangle of remembered/misremembered/invented stories that recall something of a fable. And that all point to something Gothic and clawing, but I’m just messing. Obviously this book doesn’t need an actual vampire. There’s enough danger without literal fangs: the Klan, the racist police, the well-intentioned by ultimately destructive white friends. And poetry.
So I have an Instagram account where I post pictures of my kids and follow my friends from grad school. I sort of thought of it as a virtual photo album not fully realizing it’s a whole world of commerce and connection and posturing. Okay, so I do know that I sometimes make my kids do extra cute things for the likes, but I didn’t realize you could monetize that and I know, I know, Luddite, etc. Tbh (to be honest – for you, mum), I don’t know how to use a filter, or how people add the sparkling things like lips and hearts, and I don’t really care to learn. Except if maybe it would make me millions of dollars like the ‘influencers’ in Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer do. Maybe I could be a mom influencer? I have many ideas for cute snacks that I… never execute.
But really, this book is both a total waste of your time to read because it’s silly and hilariously over-the-top, and also the exact sort of summer candy that will make your beach vacation a blast because of course you are going on a beach vacation because you are fancy and can do just that.
The novel starts out as a somewhat serious exploration of female friendship, online culture and body acceptance. It then takes a radical pivot (in the sense I didn’t see it coming at all) to murder mystery and romance. (Like the kind of romance where you squirm a little because there are A Lot of Details and you weren’t prepared for that kind of reading right now.) And the rest of the novel is something of a whodunnit mixed with a splashy polished fancy rich things catalogue. Like it was almost impossible to stop thinking about how the book was setting itself up to be adapted for HBO.
SOOOO. What? Do you read it? I don’t know. It’s so silly. Even while it’s trying to be Serious and Important with its themes of bullying and fat acceptance. But maybe silly is exactly what we all need right now. Maybe. You tell me! You never do, but still. Maybe if I was a better #influencer you would…