The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for All Adults Here by Emma Straub are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of All Adults Here by Emma Straub.
In, Clapham, a small town, Barbara Baker is hit and killed by an speeding school bus. Astrid Strick is a 68-year-old widow with three children (Elliot, Porter, and Nicky) who has never liked Barbara. But the incident reminds her that life is fleeting, so she decides to come out as a bisexual to her family and tell them about her relationship with Birdie, her hairdresser.
Porter is single, owns a goat farm and is 20 weeks pregnant, via sperm donor. She plans on raising the baby alone. She's also secretly still sleeping with her married ex-boyfriend, Jeremy Fogelman. Elliot is married to Wendy, has twin 3-year-old boys and owns a construction company in Clapham. Nicky moved away after their father, Russell, passed away. Now, he lives in New York, but his daughter Cecelia has just been sent to stay with Asrid due to bullying over an incident at her school.
After Astrid reveals her secret, Elliot is upset. They are surprised because Astrid was very rigid as a parent, especially after Russell's death. Astrid feels guilty because when Elliot was in middle school, Barbara had told her about seeing him kiss another boy, Jack. It's the incident that made Astrid dislike Barbara, and Astrid had told him he needed to hide it. In present day, Elliot has recently purchased an empty building across from Birdie's salon that he plans to develop. He is considering a bid from Beauty Bar, a major salon chain, that would likely compete with Birdie's salon.
At the doctor's office, Porter reconnects with Rachel, an old friend and Cecelia's teacher. But Rachel gets angry when she hears that Porter is still sleeping with Jeremy. Porter also introduces Cecelia with August, a boy at her new school. They become fast friends and join the school's Parade Crew together, August confides in Cecelia that he(she) is trans and goes by Robin at camp. When Sidney, Jeremy's daughter and a mean girl at school, makes fun of August for being trans and of Astrid's coming out, Cecelia punches Sidney.
Nicky and his wife Juliette come to Clapham after the incident. They apologize to Cecelia for shipping her off, instead of fighting harder for her. We learn that back at her old school, Cecelia's (former) best friend Katherine had started messaging an older guy online. When they finally meet up, he locks Katherine in his apartment and jacks off next to her. Cecelia had told an adult, so the other girls had bullied her and called her a snitch. Meanwhile, with her brothers together again, Porter finds the strength to break things off with Jeremy. And Astrid finally apologizes to Elliot for the thing with Jack, but Elliot barely remembers it.
On the day of the Harvest Festival Parade, August decides to present himself as Robin and becomes the star of the show. Elliot tries to punch Jeremy, but Jeremy ducks. Finally, Elliot tells Astrid that the thing with Jack was more about Jack's sexuality than his, and what has always bothered him was a conversation he overheard where his parent had said they didn't think Elliot could cut it as a lawyer or in business. Astrid and Elliot make up.
In the Epilogue, Astrid and Birdie are celebrating their honeymoon by going on a lesbian cruise. Porter's daughter is 6 months old now. The book ends with the family FaceTime-ing together and Astrid feeling happy.
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Chapters 1 – 4
In Clapham, a small town, Barbara Baker is hit and killed by an speeding school bus, empty except for the bus driver. Astrid Strick is a 68-year-old widow with three children (Elliot, Porter, and Nicky) and three grandchildren. She has never liked Barbara, but is shaken by the death nonetheless. It reminds her that life is fleeting. After the incident, Birdie Gonzalez, Astrid’s friend and hairdresser, comforts her and Astrid kisses her.
Meanwhile, Cecelia Strick, 13, lives in Brooklyn and is having an issue at school. Her parents, Nicky and Juliette, decide that Cecelia should go live with her grandmother for a year. Nicky, the youngest Strick sibling, was once a heartthrob in a popular teen movie, but he had hated the fame and gave up acting. Astrid arrives to pick Cecelia up from the train station, still a bit frazzled from the bus incident earlier that day.
Elsewhere, Porter moved back to Clapham after college and now runs a goat farm, producing Clap Happy Goat Cheese. Her father, Russell Strick, passed away while she was in college and she still misses him. She’s in her thirties, single and pregnant by a sperm donor she’d carefully selected. She’s 20 weeks in, starting to show and will need to tell her family.
Chapters 5 – 7
At Spiro’s Pancake House, Elliot hears about Barbara from Olympia, Spiro’s proprietor. Elliot leaves for work early twice a week to eat breakfast alone, away from his wife, Wendy, and their screaming twins, Aidan and Zachary. Elliot has recently purchased a building in town and plans to develop it to show off to the town. He has always wanted to be successful and show it off to everyone.
Cecelia gets settled at Astrid’s house, “The Big House” (which is not that big). Astrid calls Bob Baker, newly widowed, to express her condolences, and she offers to bring over some food. Bob tells her that Barbara had actually moved out a few months ago and is living with her mother. Afterwards, Astrid laughs and then cries. She thinks of her and Birdie’s own secret that they hide from the town.
August is in the car with his parents, John and Ruth Sullivan, on the way back from camp. He loves camp and is sad to leave. He’s starting eighth grade next week, which he’s dreading. Back at home, he goes with his parents, who restore old things, to an estate sale.
Chapters 8 – 10
Porter goes to visit Astrid. After greeting Cecelia, Porter tells her mother about the pregnancy and the sperm bank. Porter’s doctor is Dr. Beth McConnell at Northern Dutchess Hospital. Porter goes in for an appointment and runs into Rachel, a former best friend from 7th-11th grade.
Rachel, an English teacher at Clapham Junior High, is 21 weeks pregnant and divorced from her ex, Josh. After the appointments, Porter and Rachel get caught up. Rachel explain how she struggled to conceive, did three rounds of IVF before finally getting pregnant, only to learn about Josh cheating from his texts. Rachel’s mother is moving in to help care for the baby.
The Strick family gathers for brunch to welcome Cecelia. Birdie comes, too. Astrid and Birdie met five years ago after Birdie took over for Nancy. They had started getting together frequently and two years later, after watching Chocolat, they shared their first kiss. Birdie tells Astrid that she once came out to her parents, and they basically told her she was going to hell. But Astrid wants to come out. When they all gather, she unceremoniously announces it to everyone. Porter is cool with it, but Elliott gets upset.
Chapters 11 – 13
Before school starts, Porter takes Cecelia shopping. They meet up with the Sullivans, because Porter and John are friends with from high school. Porter has arranged this for Cecelia and August to become friends. Cecelia and August go off shopping, and August helps Cecelia find some clothes.
Astrid brings food over to Bob’s house and then to Barbara’s mother, Mary, at the nursing home. Mary doesn’t really react to anything Astrid says, so Astrid finds herself speaking to Mary very freely. When she leaves, Astrid remembers getting a phone call from Barbara when Elliot was 14. Barbara had seen him secretly kissing his friend Jack. She’d disliked Barbara after that. When Elliott came home, Astrid is ashamed to remember her telling him that she was embarrassed and that he couldn’t do “it” in public. She wonders how different his life would have been if she’d reacted differently.
Rachel comes over to Porter’s farm to meet her goats. Porter thinks back to why they grew apart. She remembers a sleepover when all the girls had announced their crushes. Both she and Rachel had named the same guy, Jeremy Fogelman. Porter ended up dating Jeremy in high school, but no one knows that it went on long after he was married. She still thinks of him as being hers. When she had told him that she wanted kids with him (even though he was already married), they stopped seeing each other.
Chapters 14 – 16
Cecelia attends her first day of school, thinking back to the drama at her old school which resulted in her being bullied. Cecelia remembers feeling bad about it even though she knew she’d done the objective “Right Thing”. She feels its wrong that she was the one who had to leave as a result, but the guidance counselor and her parents had all agreed. On the way to the new school, she sits on the bus with August and she feels hopeful that she might make friends at this school. A girl named Sidney starts giving her a hard time, but Cecelia see a flyer and decides to join the parade crew for the Harvest Festival. It’s led by her English teacher, Mrs. Skolnick.
Astrid heads to Elliot’s construction company, Strick Brick, to meet Elliott for lunch. She dreads the apology she knows she must deliver. Astrid brings up Birdie, and Elliot looks uncomfortable and the conversation doesn’t really go anywhere. She decides to try again some other time.
Porter usually goes to Dr. Gordon for her Veterinary needs, but today she shows up at East Clapham Veterinary Clinic, Jeremy’s place of work. She remembers Jeremy becoming Homecoming King and at 23, Jeremy marrying Kristen. Jeremy comes out, surprised to see her. They head to Jeremy’s empty home and have sex. Afterwards, she feels happy but knows it was a stupid thing to do, too.
Chapters 17 – 18
Wendy (née Chan) has two hours of peace because the twin 3-year-old boys are napping. A Princeton grad and lawyer, she also works part-time 20 hours a week, which she loves. She knows Elliot doesn’t really see the work she does at home as “real” work, and Elliot leaves all the childcare activities to her. When he gets home, Elliot announces that he has a bidder for the corner building property, Beauty Bar, a large salon chain. Wendy is concerned that it will be across from the small salon that Birdie owns, but Elliot gets angry when Wendy suggests that he consult his mother.
Astrid and Birdie prepare dinner as Cecelia reads at the table. Astrid says she’s planning on going to see the jailed bus driver. Birdie and Cecelia are baffled as to why, but Astrid says she just wants to ask him about his motive. As they’re chatting, Astrid asks Cecelia what Nicky says about her. Astrid and Nicky’s relationship has always been more difficult. Reluctantly, Cecelia says that Nicky thinks that Astrid is too “rigid”. Astrid recalls how after Russell died, she had needed to be strong and tough. Now she’s determined to show Nicky that she can be different by taking care of Cecelia properly.
Chapters 19 – 21
Porter goes in for a sonogram. Afterwards, she calls Nicky, who asks about Cecelia. Porter misses how close she and her siblings used to be. She remembers that Nicky detached from them once their father passed away.
August remembers how he first found the progressive, inclusive camp, advertised as “NONCOMPETITIVE, NONRACIST, NONHOMOPHOBIC, NONTRANSPHOBIC, and NONSEXIST”. He loves how, at camp, none of the usual rules seemed to apply. At camp, August goes by the name Robin and becomes friends with another trans girl, Sarah. When his parents showed up for family day, August decides to attend wearing a slinky dress. When his parents see him, they hug him, and later ask if he’d liked to be called Robin at home.
Cecelia goes to babysit at Elliot’s house. As they’re playing, Zach gets a cut, which needs to be bandaged. She also finds Elliott’s missing phone who he asked her to keep an eye out for. She goes to his desk to scribble a note about the phone. She sees Elliot’s Beauty Bar plans, including a sketch of it located on the corner in the middle of town.
Chapters 22 – 24
Porter and Rachel go out for dinner. Rachel talks about being furious with Josh, but also wondering if she should talk to him. Porter in turn admits sleeping with Jeremy and that she hopes he’ll leave his wife, but Rachel gets very upset with Porter and leaves.
At school, Cecelia and August hang out, but Sidney passes a note (delivered via Sidney’s friend Liesel) calling Cecelia a “snitch”, indicating that Sydney knows what happened at Cecelia’s old school. Cecelia had told August about being bullied for being a “snitch”, but not any of the details. (August doesn’t say it, but worries that Sydney may have found out because he told his mother who does yoga with Sydney’s mother.) Finally, Cecelia tells August the full story, that she had found out that her best friend Katherine was meeting up with a man who was a grown-up and told on her.
Nicky feels miserable so he goes to the Russian baths in East Village to sweat it out. He worries about Cecelia. Nicky remembers as a young actor being invited to a director’s apartment for a party only to realize they were alone. He had called his mother, but she been nonchalant about it. He’d ended up leaving anyway, but was scarred by the experience.
Chapters 25 – 27
Cecelia and August show up for Parade Crew, and the kids brainstorm theme ideas. One of the girls, Melody, pulls Cecelia aside and asks if August is gay. Cecelia says she doesn’t know. Then, Melody asks if it’s true that Cecelia got kicked out of her school for sleeping with some guy she met on the internet. (Melody is thinking of fooling around with a guy in high school, but doesn’t want to get expelled for it.) Cecelia says that’s not what happened. Afterwards, they take a vote and “Clapham FTW” is chosen as the theme for the float.
Wendy goes over the contract with Elliot, and they strategize over it together. Later, Wendy calls Porter to meet up. Elsewhere, Porter finds herself fixed on thinking about Kristen, Jeremy’s wife, wondering about her. Porter has been parking outside his house thinking about it.
At Spiro, Wendy asks Porter to be the twins’ legal guardian if something happened to her and Elliott. Porter accepts. Wendy and Porter have never been close, but Wendy tells Porter to reach out if she finds she needs help with the baby. Then, Wendy talks about Elliott’s plans regarding the building he’s developing, and she asks Porter to talk to him about it.
As Porter leaves, she sees Jeremy and his kids. He looks displeased as she approaches him. His daughter, Sidney, reluctantly says hi. (We find out now that Sidney Fogelman is Jeremy’s daughter). They chat briefly and he asks to see her again sometime.
Chapters 28 – 30
Cecelia recalls how she had gone with Katherine the first time she was supposed to meet up with Jesse, the older guy from the internet. It was in public with cops nearby and he hadn’t shown up. Cecelia wishes she would have told her parents at that point, but she didn’t until later. As Parade Crew, August tells Cecelia that he’s not gay, he’s trans. Cecelia promises not to tell anyone unless he tells her it’s okay.
The town attends Barbara’s memorial service. Astrid greets Birdie with a kiss on the lips, and they hold hands during the Quaker ceremony. Astrid reflects on Barbara’s earnestness and honesty. Elliot attends, too, and when he leaves she realizes she’s missed another opportunity to say what she should have.
Porter feel pain in the stomach and feels blood between her legs, so she goes to the hospital. On the way, she texts her mother and Rachel. Only Astrid show up, and it turns out the baby is okay. Porter admits to her mother that she had an abortion a long time ago. She also asks about sex, which the doctor says is okay. Then, Porter and Astrid get a call from Cecelia’s school.
Chapters 31 – 33
August, Cecelia and Sidney are all in the lower-level math class at school together. Sidney accosts August, saying that she’s heard about him from another school that he goes by the name Robin. She also makes fun of Cecelia’s grandmother. Cecelia punches Sidney in the nose. Mrs. Skolnick ends up driving Cecelia home when no one shows up for her. They even call her parents in New York, but they don’t pick up. Cecelia wonders what is going on with her parents.
At home, Rachel Skolnick (we find out now that Rachel is Cecelia’s English teacher) pulls up to Astrid’s house, where Porter and Astrid are waiting. Cecelia tells them what happened. Porter chokes on ice cream when Cecelia tells them she punched Sidney, Jeremy’s daughter. Porter calls Jeremy and they make plans to meet up. When Rachel leaves, Porter lies and implies that she won’t be seeing Jeremy anymore. Porter tells herself that she’ll be a better person when the baby comes.
Cecelia’s punishment is to go help out, unpaid at Birdie’s salon. August volunteers to help out too. At the salon, August sees Elliott walk out of the empty corner unit. August invites him into the salon. Elliot follows and tells Birdie that he’s bought the corner unit. He also reluctantly admits that he’s been approached by Beauty Bar to open a salon.
Elliot thinks about what drives him. Russell had been a lawyer, and Elliot recalls a conversation he’d overheard from his parents after he’d gotten disappointing LSAT scores. Astrid and Russell had been chatting about his future and both laughed that Elliott wasn’t cut out for law school or the business world in general.
Chapters 34 – 37
Porter and Jeremy meet at the barn and hook up a few days later. Porter tries to talk about him leaving his wife, but it’s clear he hasn’t considered leaving her. Jeremy does tell Porter that he loves her, though, and how much he likes being with her. When Porter goes home, she’s surprised and delighted to find Nicky at her place.
Elliot, Nicky and Porter go to Buddy’s, a local bar. They joke about how Nicky was always the favorite, but Nicky insists she was harder on him than the rest of them. Later, Astrid finds Elliot at home. She finally apologizes for what happened when he was in middle school. Elliot seems not to remember Jack, but Astrid is relieved to finally have it off her chest either way.
Porter finally gets up the wherewithall to break things off with Jeremy over the phone. Afterwards, she calls Rachel and invites her to a couples pregnancy message as an “I’m sorry” for their argument.
Chapters 38 – 39
Cecelia and Astrid are working on a Keep Local, Shop Small petition when Cecelia’s parents show up at the door. Cecelia is so happy to see her parents. She tells them about Sidney, but is reluctant to give up Augustus’s secret and repeat what Sidney had said. Cecelia remembers giving up Katherine’s secret.
Cecelia had told Katherine’s her concerns, but Katherine had accused her of being jealous. Then, Katherine had told her that the guy had locked her in his apartment and jacked off next to her. She’d acted like it was funny, but Cecelia had known it was wrong. Nicky comments that he wishes they would’ve fought Katherine’s parents instead of shipping Cecelia off.
At dinner, the topic of Elliot’s development plans come up. Astrid demands to know what’s going on and wonders why no one tells her anything.
Chapters 40 – 41
At the Harvest Festival Parade, August decides to come out. Before the parade starts, August changes into a dress and becomes Robin. When they see Robin, Liesel and Bailey (Sidney’s friends) complement the dress. Robin ends up being the star of the Harvest Festival.
Porter watches on and remembers her own stint as the Harvest Queen. She also remembers how Jeremy had taken her to get her abortion a few weeks later. She’d broken up with him afterwards. Kristen comes up to Porter during the festival. To her surprise, Kristen is pregnant. They make small talk, but then Kristen leans in and tells her that “he was never going to choose you”, and Kristen implies that everyone knows that Porter has been sleeping with Jeremy.
Then, Porter spots as Elliot marches up to Jeremy and nearly punches him in the face. Jeremy ducks and runs off, and Elliot hits a window instead. Afterwards, Elliot finally tells his mother that he remembers Jack, but that kiss meant more to Jack than to him. Instead, he’s still upset about what his mother had father had said about him not being cut out to be a lawyer. Astrid apologizes and tells him how much she loves him.
That night, Astrid tells Birdie that she wants to marry her.
The book flashes back to Barbara and Bob’s relationship was still alive. After they’d gotten married a long time age, Barbara and Bob had had trouble conceiving. Bob hadn’t wanted to adopt, but Barbara would have done so happily. When Bob retired, he was around all the time. Barbara decided she needed to get out of the house, so she decides to get braces.
At the dentist’s office Barbara enjoys the attention of the handsome young dentist. When she gets home, she feels resentful of Bob and her childlessness. She decides to move in temporarily with her mother.
Months later, Birdie and Astrid are planning their honeymoon, and they decide in a lesbian cruise. Porter’s baby, Eleanor Hope Strick, is now six months old. The book ends with the family FaceTime-ing together and Astrid feeling fulfilled and happy.