Book Review: The Vacationers – Emma Straub

The Vacationers coverTitle: The Vacationers
Author: Emma Straub
ISBN: 9781594631573
Pages: 304
Release Date: May 29, 2014
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


The Post family thought a two-week trip to Mallorca would be a great idea . . . at least, until they actually embarked. Jim and Franny have been married 35 years, but it’s looking less and less likely they’ll make it to year 36 after Jim’s recent indiscretion. Seventeen-year-old Sylvia would rather be anywhere but on vacation with her parents, while Bobby and his girlfriend Carmen arrive reluctantly, with their own secrets in tow. Over the course of this vacation, secrets and lies will be drawn out and lives will be changed irrevocably. The only question is: Will the Post family weather through these latest storms together or will they be torn apart?

Snapshot Review:

The perfect summer read, The Vacationers manages to be fun and breezy while dealing with serious issues and fully realized, heartwarming characters. Readers will have trouble putting this delightful novel down.

Full Review:

What makes The Vacationers the perfect summer read? It’s difficult to put it into words. The entire feel of the novel screams vacation, and not just because the characters embark on their own journey to sun-kissed Mallorca. It’s the way the book sucks the reader into these characters’ lives, the way it takes hold of you so completely that you can’t do anything until you finish the novel. It’s escapist fare, not because these characters have perfect lives by any stretch of the imagination, but because you will sink completely into this book, fully believing you’re in Mallorca along with the Posts.

Straub writes rich, fully realized characters in The Vacationers, ones who leap off the page completely. No one is perfect; Franny can be difficult, while Jim’s flaws speak for themselves. Sylvia is a brooding teenager, intent on focusing on her own despair rather than empathizing with the people around her, while Bobby is quite the selfish prat. Charles and Lawrence, friends who accompany the family on the vacation, are the outsiders, the stand-in for the reader. They observe the Post family’s dysfunction, but they also have their own problems. These characters are extremely well done, and Straub manages to make them likeable while preserving their flaws and making them realistic.

Yes, this is a great summer read, but honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re reading The Vacationers in the dead of winter. It will still transport you completely. The magic of Straub’s novel is in the intricacy of her descriptions, her sense of place, and her wondrously drawn characters. If you haven’t yet discovered the reason people are talking about this book, do yourself a favor—run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick it up. I promise you won’t regret a single second of the time you spend with the Post family.

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  1. I think I’m one of the only people on the planet who didn’t love this book. I thought it was fine, but nothing special and I couldn’t really latch onto any of the characters. I also saw that you’re reading Shadows in the Sun – I reviewed that awhile back and it’s an interesting book. I was fascinated by the cultural differences b/w how India and the U.S. look at mental illness.

  2. I don’t know what it is about books about vacations, summer houses and trips to the cape, but I love them. I haven’t had time to read this one yet, but I’ll get to it eventually. Maybe even on a vacation!


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