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The Vacationers

Review

The Vacationers

The Post family, along with a few close friends, leaves New York City and jets off to Mallorca for a two-week vacation in the sunshine. They're packing plenty of emotional baggage along with their suitcases.

While the trip was once intended to celebrate Franny and Jim's 35th anniversary, their tension is palpable. Jim has been asked to leave his long-term job as editor at Gallant,a tony men's magazine. At 60, he is devastated, sure that he will never again find a job he loves as much. Franny, a freelance food writer, is also distraught, but her emotions center on the reason Jim was dismissed: he had an affair with a 23-year-old intern named Madison Vance. Now, their marriage is off-kilter and their future in question. Will Jim ever truly forget Madison? From the way Franny is acting, Jim surmises that a divorce is in his future. He must decide where and how he will live.

"Author Emma Straub pulls us deep inside this family, magically forming each character into a fully three-dimensional person."

Meanwhile, their daughter, Sylvia, has just graduated from high school. She has her own concerns, including humiliating drunken party behavior that others recorded on Facebook, following a romantic disappointment. Her biggest goal for this vacation is to somehow, some way, put an end to her eternal state of virginity, while also dealing with her parents and their difficulties. When she meets her Spanish teacher, an extremely handsome young man named Joan (pronounced Joe-ahn), she can't help being intrigued, even though she must pretend to her nearly swooning mother that she is less than interested.

Franny's long-time best friend, Charles, and his husband are also vacationing with the Posts. Charles is there to comfort and support Franny during this emotional time. Lawrence would have preferred a vacation with just the two of them, but he is good-natured about Charles's preferences. Little does Lawrence know that Charles guards a long-held secret, one he is afraid might rock their relationship. Nor does he suspect the life-altering news that is soon to come their way.

Franny and Jim's 28-year-old son, Bobby, and Carmen, his much-older live-in girlfriend, fly in from Miami to join the rest of the Post family and friends in their beautiful rental. Carmen, a fitness trainer, knows that the rest of Bobby's family looks down on her. Yet she can't help trying to please them. She nurtures a secret longing to marry Bobby, although he has never mentioned such a future. Meanwhile, she urges him to tell his parents his own troubling secret. And yet, Bobby has dark secrets that Carmen hasn't even guessed at.

Each chapter covers one vacation day, all the better to experience each person as he or she transforms day by day over the two-week period. Author Emma Straub pulls us deep inside this family, magically forming each character into a fully three-dimensional person. Most of these people feel recognizable and elicit heartfelt sympathy (with the exception of Bobby and, to a lesser degree, Carmen). Although at first glance this might seem like a plot that we've seen too many times, THE VACATIONERS feels fresh and vital, delving deep below surfaces while managing to keep the plot stepping along. In a season filled with excellent books, this is one readers will remember; it is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on May 30, 2014

The Vacationers
by Emma Straub

  • Publication Date: May 29, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 1594631573
  • ISBN-13: 9781594631573