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The Adults

Review

The Adults

I like watching Hallmark Channel Christmas movies as much as the next person, but every once in a while --- even during the sentimental holiday season --- it can be refreshing to take a break with a book that reveals the messiness that underlies many Christmas card photos and Instagram-worthy decorations. Caroline Hulse’s THE ADULTS offers just that kind of antidote to holiday perfection, in a wry and often hilarious novel about a thoroughly imperfect blended family.

Alex loves her new partner, Matt. He’s funny and unpredictable, and his charms definitely outweigh his occasional irresponsibility and questionable choice in friends. Matt is also trying to be a great dad to his young daughter, Scarlett, so when he proposes that --- as his only opportunity to spend Christmas with Scarlett --- he and Alex accompany Matt’s ex, Claire, and her partner, Patrick, to a family woodland resort for the holidays, she reluctantly agrees. Alex’s best friend warns that disaster is bound to ensue, but Alex is sure she can make this work --- until she learns that a “weekend trip” is actually five days and that this is a resort that Matt and Claire once visited back when they were together. Then the doubts set in.

"...a wry and often hilarious novel about a thoroughly imperfect blended family."

Patrick, like Claire, is a lawyer, a one-time geek who now overcompensates by running constantly and considering training for an Iron Man triathlon. He is divorced, too, and seems to view Scarlett as a second chance to do the whole parenthood thing right, even as he harbors unrealistic visions of a perfect Christmas with his own teenage kids (who are, lucky for them, spending Christmas with their mom). And Claire? Claire is just about perfect. She’s beautiful, sexy and a great cook. And she’s overcome a fairly wild past to become a wonderful mom and a super-organized homemaker --- not to mention a well-respected lawyer and a karaoke queen. How can Alex compete with that?

It doesn’t help that Scarlett --- whose constant companion since her parents split up has been a huge imaginary rabbit named Posey --- has developed a sudden distrust of Alex, a scientist who (she is convinced) has designs on using rabbits (perhaps including Posey) for research. Is it any wonder that Alex, who has sworn off alcohol, finds herself dying for a drink or two?

Needless to say, Hulse has set up a lot of potential avenues for drama (and disaster) to play out against a backdrop of forced holiday cheer. And she pushes nearly all of them to their limits, resulting in plenty of cringe-worthy scenes that likely won’t be mentioned in anyone’s annual Christmas letter. The increasingly fraught events of the Christmas getaway play out, alternating with witness statements following an apparent injury that may (or may not) be the logical outcome of those mounting tensions. Along the way, Hulse offers plenty of implicit commentary on everything from the Christmas industrial complex to the pressures of modern parenting.

THE ADULTS is a perfect Christmas novel to pack for holiday family travels as a reminder that, no matter how imperfect our family situations might be, it definitely could be worse.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on November 30, 2018

The Adults
by Caroline Hulse

  • Publication Date: November 27, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 0525511741
  • ISBN-13: 9780525511748