Review: The Vacationers

June 12, 2014 book review, Emma Straub, family, Guest review, Riverhead 4

The Vacationers

  • Written By:  Emma Straub
  • Published By:  Riverhead an imprint of Penguin Random House May 2014
  • Length:  304 pages
  • Source:  Publisher in consideration of an honest review

There are just so many great books out this summer so I’ve asked my great friend and author Judy to help me out with some reviews.  Judy is a voracious reader, so she was happy to lend a hand.

Summary:  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)

Judy’s Thoughts:

I have to admit that when Anita asked me to review The Vacationers for her, I was a little nervous. I’d previously loved Emma Straub’s work, but the premise — a family meeting for a two-week vacation in a remote place — has been done to death. Was Straub going to be able to rise above the typical to keep the reader turning the pages?

The answer is a resounding YES.  I finished the book in about a day and a half, keeping it close by at all times.  Her characters, Franny and Jim and their adult son Bobby and his girlfriend, Carmen, their daughter Sylvia, and their friends Charles and Lawrence, spend two weeks at a Mallorca house, each bringing inner struggle, as well as some outer struggles.  Franny and Jim’s marriage is on the rocks after a poor decision gets Jim fired from his coveted job. Bobby and his girlfriend are struggling to stay together as Bobby fails at being an adult; Sylvia can’t wait to just get to college in the fall after being humiliated at her high school, and Charles and Lawrence are striving to adopt a baby as a gay couple.

You might be able to guess at how it all winds up, but Straub deftly manages to make it seem worth it to keep turning the pages anyway. Her characters feel very real, deeply nuanced, and beautifully flawed.  Their struggles are easy to relate to and I rooted for all of them to get it together in the end.

If you want a good beach read, this might be a good book for you!

Judy Mollen Walters is the author of Child of Mine (March, 2013) and The Opposite of Normal (February, 2014).  She can be found at, on Facebook at Judy Mollen Walters author, or on twitter @judymwalters.

You can learn more about Emma Straub on her website, twitter, and facebook.


4 Responses to “Review: The Vacationers”

  1. Meg

    Glad Judy enjoyed this one! I liked it, too, but wasn’t as bowled over by it as I’d hoped I would be. I do love Straub’s writing, though — it’s evocative and engrossing — and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up her next work. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is a favorite!

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