The Vacationers by Emma Straub
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.
Looking at the reviews on Goodreads, this novel got absolutely dragged. But I don’t really think it’s that bad. I actually quite enjoyed this one.
Yes, the family is upper-class, elitist, snobby, and not much happens on their two week vacation. Yes, I didn’t really care much for any of the characters. But isn’t that the definition of a beach read? Something to entertain without overly exerting you. And this book does that in spades. The Vacationers is a little soap opera packaged into a book. It kept me turning the pages and it wasn’t very long so it was a breeze to get through.
Also, I really want to book a ticket to Mallorca, stat. The island and its food and its inhabitants was so wonderfully described. It’s been ten years since I went to Europe, but this book brought back memories of that trip and had me itching to book another trip. Or at least an Airbnb somewhere. I was almost as enamored with the house as I was with the island.
I do want to note one thing of interest: this book does something very interesting with POV. It’s written in third-person limited omniscient, but head hops from character to character within the same chapter. Normally, this is considered a major faux pas in writing and to be avoided at all costs. But Straub not only made this work, she succeeded at it. Not an easy feat.