Read an Excerpt from Emma Straub's Side-Splitting New Novel, All Adults Here
In this topsy-turvy era in which normal life feels like a Twilight Zone episode, there's refuge to be found in stories of everyday people going about their lives. Through three novels—2012's Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, 2014's The Vacationers, and 2016's Modern Lovers—Emma Straub has become adept at finding amusement in the mundane, and her newest, All Adults Here, might just be her best yet. It follows three generations of the Strick family, a Hudson Valley-bound clan holding just as many secrets from themselves as from one another.
One of those sparkling personalities is Porter, a pushing-forty goat farmer who has self-inseminated and is eager—though not too eager—to tell her mother, Astrid, that she'll have a new granddaughter. In this exclusive excerpt from the book, we see how Porter arrived at the decision to get pregnant via sperm bank.
Porter's bathroom smelled like goats because Porter smelled like goats. She couldn't always smell it herself, certainly not when she was with the animals, but once she came home and got into the shower, the steam opened up her pores and the whole room bloomed into a barnyard. It was worse when she smelled like cheese, mostly because other people tended to be more likely to attribute the cheese smell to her own body, whereas when she smelled like the goats, the animals were clearly to blame.
After graduating from Hampshire College, Porter had moved back to Clapham fast, like a rubber band pinged across a room. Her father had been dead for two and a half years, and being at school in Massachusetts had felt so absolutely dumb, but her mother had insisted she stay. What was the point? her mother had asked. What would she do in Clapham but sit around and mope? Porter thought that if she was going to find her father anywhere, in whatever form, it would be at home. And so she came back, reverting quickly to her teenage habits, but with part of her family cleaved off, as if her father had been a dream. It had been like learning to walk with a limp—tough at first, but then she got so used to it that she couldn't remember what life had felt like on two solid feet.
She'd worked as a substitute teacher at the high school, then at the Clay Depot, a high-end pottery store on Main Street. When she was nearing thirty, Porter's childhood friend Harriet converted her parents' land into an organic farm, and then they bought some goats and read some books on fermentation, and now, almost eight years later, Clap Happy Goat Cheese was available in shops in New York City and at every restaurant in Clapham and at specialty cheese shops around the country. Harriet had sold Porter the land and her share of the goats (there were two dozen altogether) and moved to Oregon with her husband, and so now the dairy was Porter's alone.
It was maybe because of the goats that the idea of getting pregnant on her own didn't seem all that scary. She was used to assisting reproduction, to having a hand in creating life, even if it was goats. Sperm banks were stud farms, and she'd grown up around enough farmers to know how biology worked. Really, it was mainstream, heteronormative couples who were doing the crazy thing, picking a partner based on what, a sense of humor? Where they went to college? What they did with their tongue when they kissed? And then having a baby. Why didn't everyone pick one person to marry and then pick the sperm they wanted separately? Also, fathers died, anyone could die, didn't people understand that? You couldn't ask one person to be your everything, because that person could be taken away. Would be taken away, eventually. Obviously it would be ideal to have a partner to help with the child once he or she was born—she wasn't a fool, she knew she had only two hands—but she didn't want to wait until she was forty. Maybe if she lived in a bigger place, where the dating pool was larger, she wouldn't have felt in such a rush. But Porter knew everyone in Clapham who she could possibly have sex with, and there were no golden tickets on that list.
Read the full excerpt here: Read an Exclusive Excerpt of Emma Straub's Side-Splitting New Novel, All Adults Here