Book Reviews

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers“An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.” ~ Goodreads


The Vacationers by Emma Straub will sweep you off your feet and take you to the Mediterranean Sea and immerse you in all the lovely food, culture and breathtaking scenery on this Spanish island. It’s one of the strengths of this novel. The way Straub weaves in the surroundings of this dream vacation while the characters slowly implode due their dysfunction, insecurities and secrets they are desperate to keep.

“Families were nothing more than hope cast out in a wide net, everyone wanting only the best.”

Another strong element that Straub does so well is develop the characters. Not only did I feel like a fly on the wall during this two-week vacay but I felt like I knew each and every character. She slowly delves out bits of information about each and every one to give the reader back story as well as keep you interested for more to come. Each troubled character has something worth rooting for. A strong writer is capable of doing just that.

I’m not a huge fan when books are compared to other books or authors are compared to other authors because of the let-down factor. I guess it does help at times when looking for a similar read but I’m going to do it here anyway. I felt as if I was reading something by Meg Wolitzer. There, I said it! She is one of my favorite authors and again I don’t like comparing but Straub has a way of writing average, flawed characters that make them relatable and real. The descriptions/comparisons she makes as well as the notice of daily life’s nuances are brilliant and have you nodding in agreement.

“Sometimes it was pleasant to sit in silence with a near stranger, both of you lost in your own thoughts. Once the pressure to speak was gone, the quiet could hover for hours, covering you in a sort of gossamer cloak, like two people staring out a moving train’s window.”

This book is full of daily observances like that but written in a way that sings off the page. Delicious writing, I call it. I couldn’t have chosen a better book to kick off my summer reading, especially being landlocked. But it’s more than just your typical “beach read”.

To learn more about Emma Straub, her books or start to “fangirl” her like I now have begun to do, visit her site here.


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