Wednesday, May 28, 2014

book review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The backstory: I've previously enjoyed Emma Straub's short story collection, Other People We Married, which apparently I never reviewed, but the story "Fly Over State" remains one of my all-time favorites. Her debut novel, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, was a delightful audio experience, and I was eager to see what she would do next. Once again, it's something quite different from her previously published work.

The basics: The Post family are off to spend two weeks in Mallorca. Franny and Jim are celebrating thirty-five years of marriage, but it may be coming to an end. Jim has also lost his job. Their daughter Sylvia is off to Brown in the fall. Their son, Bobby, and his older girlfriend, Carmen, live in Miami. Franny's best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence, also join them.

My thoughts: The Vacationers is one of those books that enchanted me from its opening pages. It's the perfect combination of so many factors, and reading it gave me that feeling that this book is one that will remain with me because it's so special. There's a lot of drama within its pages, but it never veers to the melodramatic, largely due to Straub's smart and witty writing. In some ways, the plot itself is rather ordinary, and perhaps that's why I was so impressed when this novel turned out to be something extraordinary, and a much richer reading experience than I anticipated.

I read The Vacationers compulsively. I loved living in the heads of each narrator. Some characters I more easily identified with, but as each took a turn telling the story from his or her point of view, none appeared stronger or weaker than the other. There are so many things I loved about The Vacationers, but they all circle back to the combination of smart, observant writing and realistically flawed, well-developed characters.

The verdict: The Vacationers is perfect summer reading for smart people. It offers an exotic location, family drama, humor and plenty of wise observations about contemporary life. In short: it's smart, funny and fun.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 301 pages
Publication date: May 29, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Vacationers from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Emma Straub's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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  1. My review for this one posts later this week or next. I forget but I liked it quite a bit. At first, I didn't like it too much. I didn't really care for the characters all that much but boy, did the author NAIL the whole vacation with family experience. Tension that you can slice with a knife. Gotta love that.

  2. YAY! I was afraid it would be fluff.

  3. I think this is going to make the perfect summer read. Thanks for the review.

  4. You sold me on this one. Ill make it a must read this summer. Great review!

  5. Have discovered your website after having finished yesterday J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine, when a Google search of reviews of the book led me here. I'm enjoying very much what I've found! And now I'm going to try the Vacationers based on your recommendation (enjoyed your analysis of Pamela Druckerman, GoodBye to All That, and MFA vs NYC). Good luck with the nomad baby!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!