SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Emma Straub's new novel reminds us how lives can change in an instant, not that we may need that reminder much right now. Astrid Strick sees a lifelong friend she never much liked get hit and killed by an empty speeding school bus. At the age of 68, she realizes, as she tells her children, there are always more school buses. "All Adults Here" is the title of Emma Straub's new modern family saga of three generations thrown together whether they like it or not - and a lot of the time, they don't.
And Emma Straub, the bestselling author of "The Vacationers," "Modern Lovers" and other books and, by the way, an independent bookstore owner, joins us from Brooklyn. Thanks so much for being with us.
EMMA STRAUB: Thanks for having me, Scott. It's a pleasure.
SIMON: What does seeing someone she wishes she could've liked a little more maybe get killed midmorning on a busy day set off in Astrid?
STRAUB: Well, so the book, as you say, really starts with a bang.
SIMON: Crunch, I'd say, but, yeah.
STRAUB: (Laughter) With a bang and a crunch and a roll. But, really, what it does is it makes Astrid, who's the main character of the book, realize that there are a lot of things that she wishes she'd done differently as a parent. And the book is really about how the choices we make and the mistakes we make stay with us for decades, if not forever (laughter).
SIMON: Yeah. We'll explain Astrid is already a widow. She has a daughter, Porter, who is - and I'll tread carefully - pregnant by choice at a time when it might not seem the wisest thing to do.
STRAUB: Yeah, yeah. You know, everyone - it's a big, complicated family book. And so it's equal opportunity for choices and mistakes. They're all (laughter) - they're all doing things their family members would rather they do differently.
SIMON: As we noted, you and your husband own a bookstore in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. May I ask how business is right now?
STRAUB: You know, somewhat miraculously, business is actually pretty good. And that sense of community is absolutely buoying us right now. And I will say that in the last, you know, three years since we've opened the store and I've been writing this book, the thing that I think about the most is that sense of community.
The neighborhood where our bookstore is and where we live is the neighborhood where I went to school, and my children go to the schools that I went to. And so all day long, I see people from all these different periods of my life - my 10th grade poetry teacher and my friends' parents and a person I made out with in high school. And, you know, I see all these people every day. And it's been a really (laughter) interesting sort of psychological experiment on myself, really, to think about, when they interact with me, are they interacting with 40-year-old mother of two? Are they interacting with the sullen 16-year-old me? Are they...
STRAUB: ...Thinking about me as a child? Are they thinking about me and my parents? I think about those different webs a lot. And that's really a lot of what the book is about is the ways in which we're all really watching each other get older and the ways in which we either allow or don't allow each other to grow or change and what sort of feelings get all tied up in that.
SIMON: And, you know, that kind of brings up a line in particular that I admire from your book, where you write, people said that everyone was born alone and everyone would die alone, but they were wrong. When someone was born, they brought so many people with them, generations of people zipped into the marrow of their tiny bones.
STRAUB: I mean, the family in this book, they are in and out of each other's lives and react to each other in the ways that we all do, I think, with our families. You know, (laughter) like, I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but when my mother comes over to our house, she and my husband immediately start sort of annoying each other and teasing each other and all of those things that you would normally complain about, and my book is full of those (laughter) things with this family.
STRAUB: Like right now, my husband said to me yesterday, he said, I just wish your mom could come over and annoy me.
STRAUB: I think it's what we're all missing, you know, are, like, not the perfect, shiny bits but, like, why does my mom just bring me bags of loose batteries? I don't know. I mean, I probably need them.
SIMON: (Laughter) I was going to ask - yeah. We could all use them, I guess.
STRAUB: Right, right. And that kind of stuff, which I always make fun of her for but is so loving and - yeah.
STRAUB: I mean, I think that this moment really does bring up all those big feelings about family and about how we relate to the people we love the most and who we know the best. It's intense. You know, it's a funny kind of microscope where we're all under right now.
SIMON: Emma Straub's novel "All Adults Here" - thank you so much for being with us.
STRAUB: Thank you for having me.
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