In Other People We Married, Straub creates characters as recognizable as a best friend, and follows them through moments of triumph and transformation with wit, vulnerability, and dazzling insight. In “Some People Must Really Fall in Love,” an assistant professor takes halting steps into the awkward world of office politics while harboring feelings for a freshman student. Two sisters struggle with old assumptions about each other as they stumble to build a new relationship in “A Map of Modern Palm Springs.” In ...
In Other People We Married, Straub creates characters as recognizable as a best friend, and follows them through moments of triumph and transformation with wit, vulnerability, and dazzling insight. In “Some People Must Really Fall in Love,” an assistant professor takes halting steps into the awkward world of office politics while harboring feelings for a freshman student. Two sisters struggle with old assumptions about each other as they stumble to build a new relationship in “A Map of Modern Palm Springs.” In “Puttanesca,” two widows move tentatively forward, still surrounded by ghosts and disappointments from the past. These twelve stories, filled with sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language, announce the arrival of a major new talent.
Though fresh and satisfying insights can surface in even the most common terrain, this debut story collection, from the daughter of horror heavyweight Peter Straub, offers little originality or wit. Despite the stories taking place in different locations, what the characters encounter along the way remains provincial, the circumstantial and geographic territory covered ringing all too familiar. Set in the Midwest, “Some People Must Really Fall in Love,” presents a young female professor with a crush on one of her students. In “Rosemary,” set in Brooklyn, a new mother’s beloved cat flees after the baby is born. In the title story, Franny’s best friend is a gay man who awkwardly accompanies her and her husband on a Martha’s Vineyard vacation. “Puttanesca,” by contrast, is a delight: Stephen and Laura met through their bereavement counselor, having each lost a significant other when young. Despite a trip to Italy, Laura in particular remains in the shadow of her dead husband, and in this there is tenderness and intrigue. “Orient Point” follows an unlikely couple and their baby to Long Island. Though it’s the shortest of the collection, it’s also the strongest, nailing both a humor and an inevitable loss that is never quite realized in the other stories. Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler, Brick House. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Narrator Coleen Marlo delivers the collection impeccably. She sets the appropriate tone for each story and captures the essence of the diverse characters with subtle style. Along with expressing the discomfort of difficult decisions to be made, she enhances the humorous small details sprinkled throughout." - AudioFile Magazine
"Coleen Marlo does a fine reading of all the stories." - Sound Commentary
"Psychologically acute, often very funny...A fresh voice from a writer who deserves discovery." - Kirkus Reviews
"...the language is clear and lovely and packed with imagery that will immerse you in a character's world in just a few short pages. The stories are also very funny." - BookPage, "The Book Case"
"Emma Straub is a wry, witty, incisively observant writer." - Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake
"Other People We Married is a revelation." - Lorrie Moore, author of Birds of America and A Gate at the Stairs
Straub's stories go down easy, like a remembered conversation with a wise and witty friend. In her debut collection, she establishes characters and situations that feel immediately familiar and draw one in from the start. Many of her first sentences read like overheard dialog from the couple at the next table at the local bistro, but in this case one gets the chance to learn the delicious context. A story called "Rosemary" begins, "Claire didn't want to tell her husband that she'd called a pet psychic." Another, titled "A Map of Modern Palm Springs," features two sisters with a difficult history trying out a vacation together and begins, "The Palm Springs airport was more outside than inside, all sun-soaked breezeways and squinting white people in gold shirts." VERDICT These stories of love in its various permutations, gone wrong and right, are told with a captivating wryness, reminiscent of the early Ann Beattie, that readers will find tremendously appealing.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Psychologically acute, often very funny and only occasionally glib, these stories show great promise, though a few of the dozen in this debut collection are almost as slight as the best are compelling. Straub writes predominantly from the perspective of a youngish woman in New York (where she lives and works as a bookseller) and often in the first person, though these narratives seem to transcend the thinly disguised memoir of so much fledgling fiction. Certain motifs seem signature. Many of the stories have a coming-of-age quality to them, though the "girls" who are experiencing these rites of passage might be well into their 20s or 30s, and some are even mothers. Like Franny, the unhappily married (or at least unfulfilled, for happiness may be beyond the emotional range of so many of Straub's characters) protagonist of three of these stories: "She still thought she was a cow with her leftover baby weight and yet insisted on wearing those stupid pigtails all young mothers seem to think it's their right to wear, as if they were all waiting, gasping, praying for someone to say, Oh, you! You can't be the mother of this child! You couldn't possibly be old enough!" In addition to arrested development, or a post-adolescence that extends into what was once considered middle age, a surprising number of these stories find two (or more) characters on vacation, or in a state of dislocation, a place where either the relationship changes or they (or at least one of them) discovers what has been wrong all along. They must, as Franny discovers in the pre-marriage "Pearls," where her friendship with her very different roommate briefly turns romantic. In the first-person opening story, "Some People Must Really Fall in Love," a young teacher in the grip of what she considers an inappropriate infatuation with a student tells her freshman class that "stories didn't have to have morals at the end." And many of these stories are left comparatively open-ended, rich in interpretive possibility. A fresh voice from a writer who deserves discovery.
Emma Straub is from New York City. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published by Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, Time, Slate, and The New York Times, and she is a staff writer for Rookie. Emma lives with her husband in Brooklyn, where she also works as a bookseller.