The Adults: A Novel (Paperback) ~ Alison Espach Cover Art

The Adults: A Novel (Paperback)

By: Alison Espach

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Amazon Exclusive: Aryn Kyle Reviews The Adults

Aryn Kyle is the author of Boys and Girls Like You and Me and The God of Animals.

While I was reading this novel, I found myself carrying it around with me so that I could read bits of it aloud to my friends. "Listen to this line," I would tell them. "Listen to this paragraph." Alison Espach doesn’t just understand the thrills and terrors and confusion that make up that rocky, winding path between childhood and adulthood, but she manages to convey them with such perfect pitch, such authenticity and humor and tenderness, that I found myself returning to passages again and again, simply for the pleasure of reading her prose. "Listen to the way she describes this scene," I told my friends. "Listen to the way she starts this chapter." "Listen to the way she ends it."

The Adults follows Emily Vidal, a sharp-eyed but sensitive girl, from early adolescence into early adulthood. As the novel opens, the cozy world of Emily’s affluent Connecticut upbringing begins to simultaneously dissolve and expand with the divorce of her parents. While her mother and father struggle to restructure their lives without each other, Emily is left to navigate her increasingly complicated world mostly on her own.

Coming-of-age stories seem to be a dime a dozen, maybe because everybody has one: We all grow up. Well, we try.

What makes The Adults unique is also, I believe, what makes it universal: The book froths with the frenetic energy of adolescence, the giddiness and the fear, the nastiness and vulnerability, the humor so deftly juxtaposed with the heartbreak that within the span of a single paragraph I would find myself laughing out loud, then aching with sadness.

There’s a fearlessness about Espach’s writing, an authority that makes this novel, once started, almost impossible to put down. The real accomplishment of The Adults, however, is not the unflinching insights or the razor-edged prose, but the underlying tenderness Espach conveys for her characters. These are deeply flawed and wounded people, characters that might, in less capable hands, be difficult to like and easy to judge. But through small moments and brief encounters, Espach expertly portrays the vast complexities of all her characters, making them loveable even when they’re not especially likable.

This is an honest and brutally funny novel about choices and mistakes, acceptance and forgiveness, about the people we love and the people we leave as we pass from childhood into adulthood. Whatever that might be.

Photo Credit: Miriam Berkley

Short Desription

In her ruefully funny and wickedly perceptive debut novel, Alison Espach deftly dissects matters of the heart and captures the lives of children and adults as they come to terms with life, death, and love.

At the center of this affluent suburban universe is Emily Vidal, a smart and snarky teenager, who gets involved in a suspect relationship with one of the adults after witnessing a suicide in her neighborhood.  Among the cast of unforgettable characters is Emily’s father, whose fiftieth birthday party has the adults descending upon the Vidal’s patio; her mother, who has orchestrated the elaborate party even though she and her husband are getting a divorce; and an assortment of eccentric neighbors, high school teachers, and teenagers who teem with anxiety and sexuality and an unbridled desire to be noticed, and ultimately loved.

An irresistible chronicle of a modern young woman’s struggle to grow up, The Adults lays bare—in perfect pitch—a world where an adult and a child can so dangerously be mistaken for the same exact thing.

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