Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Adults: A Novel by Alison Espach

"I knew our lives were just beginning and that their lives were ending, and how strange it seems to me now that this was a form of leverage."
The Adults: A Novel by Alison Espach begins with a party. Emily Vidal is an intelligent, perceptive and snarky teenage girl at her father's fiftieth birthday party, a party her mother organized even though she and her husband are getting divorced and which is attended by a diverse cast of neighbours. The Adults follows Emily over a decade, as she goes through high school drama, has an affair with a teacher, and later moves to Prague to pursue graduate school where her father is currently living. That said, it certainly isn't a novel about plot, but rather about the wry observations that Espach makes about the affluent world that surrounds Emily as well as what it is like growing up.

The Adults is a very difficult novel to review, because I loved Espach's writing, and I loved the first third of the novel, but in the end it unfortunately lost my love. As a character, Emily was completely memorable. She is constantly observing the world around her as well as sharing her thoughts on the experiences she is having. Every once in awhile she throws an outlandish statement out there, almost as if to see if the reader is paying attention, for example, "As a child, I thought my breasts were tumors." The way that the characters interact with each other felt realistic, and I really enjoyed the strange insight into Emily's highschool life. However, the pacing of The Adults was extremely slow and so the novel took me almost a month to read and certainly wasn't a book I rushed back to.

Unfortunately, when the novel moves to Prague it mostly lost my interest. A lot of that portion focuses on Emily's relationship with her half-sister who never really caught my interest. I enjoyed Emily's cold sense of humour when it worked, but there were certainly moments where it didn't and just felt odd instead. Throughout the novel, Espach's writing is impeccable and beautiful, raw and observant, and if it was not for this fact I am unsure if I would have finished the slow book. Although it was the beginning I loved, one paragraph near the end of the book stuck with me in particular and summed up the novel really well:
"I thought of all the empty bottles and cigarette ends I had created and all the men I had created them with. There were so many things I had loved as my own, and these things never ended up being mine. All of the glass lights strung on other people's porches, houseplants that were someone else's, rugs and paintings and lighting fixtures and curtains and different men who looked different in every room, and I closed my eyes, overwhelmed by the infinite ways to live just one life. I wanted to run out of my apartment until the street signs and passing cars ripped me of my belongings, until the wind had worn me down to sand so fine, I could slip through the cracks in the floor."
Ultimately, although the latter half of The Adults didn't capture my heart in the same way as the beginning did,  Espach has created a dark and perceptive novel with a protagonist and style of writing I will not soon forget.

Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Pages: 307
: E-Galley
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