Thursday, June 16, 2016

book review: 'Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures'

Emma Straub does it again, weaving together themes of love, loss, family and work, in a beautiful story of reinvention.

Congratulations! We made it to Thursday! Trust me, there were several moments this week when I didn't think it was going to happen. (hashtag adulting, am I right?) But here we are, so close to the glorious weekend.

After much research and indecision, I finally bought and took this book with me to Florida for road trip and beach reading last week. I wanted something light and summer-y, and every time I thought of those two traits I kept coming back to the first book I read by Emma Straub, The Vacationers. I read it last summer and enjoyed it, for the story but mostly for Straub's writing.

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. The book was different than I expected — but in a good way. It follows Elsa Emerson, the youngest of three daughters whose parents run a theater company in small-town Wisconsin in the 1920s. Elsa loves living in her small town, but she gets married and leaves for California in search of a bigger stage when she's only 18. Once she gets there, her acting career doesn't happen quite like she had imagined, and a series of events — her "discovery" by a famous Hollywood producer that comes with a name change, her husband's drinking problem, and two unexpected children — each changes her life in different ways.

I loved this book for many reasons, one being its detail in the Golden Age of movies, which I've always found fascinating. It was such an interesting time period to read about, especially thinking of how different things are from today and with the fictional characters she created for it. The other reasons I enjoyed this are mainly tied to Emma Straub and her talent. She took a simple outline of a young woman reinventing herself and made it into a beautiful story of love, loss and choices. Laura Lamont reminds you how the people we are and the people we want to be can be so different.

Straub covered so many themes in this book — family, heartbreak, work/life balance, aging in the public eye — but it never felt overwhelming or like it was too much for one story. Everything flowed seamlessly, even the timeline, which jumped years ahead from chapter to chapter and spanned more than 50 years.

If you're looking for a great summer read, or even a light historical fiction, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures is the one. Honestly, it's the first book I've had a hard time putting down all year and it's only got me more excited to read her other books.

Have you read any of Emma Straub's books? What are your favorites? If you pick up this one, let me know what you think!

P.S. reviews of Saint Anything, Looking for Alaska and The Vacationers

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