Emma Straub’s recent short-fiction collection, Other People We Married, was well received and praised by literary luminaries from Dan Chaon to Lorrie Moore. So it follows that her debut novel would be highly anticipated. Unfortunately, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures fails to meet the author’s lofty ambitions.
Blond, ordinary theatre brat Elsa Emerson leaves picturesque Door County, Wisconsin and transforms into alluring Golden Age Hollywood star Laura Lamont. Laura embodies a heady celluloid fantasy while maintaining a quaint private life replete with three kids, a house in the Hills and a live-in nanny. Tragedy ensues, Laura’s star wanes, and the actress becomes a relic of a bygone era, struggling to make ends meet.
Straub’s ability to blend story and character into a pleasant brew is laudable, but nothing here transcends. Her prose sings, but it does so in a key just shy of sentimentality. A grand book needs more than likeable characters, and in that regard the novel fails. Dan Lopez