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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Short & Sweet Review- The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Published by Riverhead Books ISBN 978-1-59463-157-3
Hardcover, $26.95, 304 pages
Genre: Fiction
The Plot: The Post family heads off for a two week vacation to beautiful Mallorca, but things are not all rosy. Jim lost his job at a magazine because he had an affair with a young woman at work. Franny, his wife of 35 years, is furious at him, but at least she has her best friend, Charles, (who with his husband Lawrence are trying to adopt a baby) along to cheer her up and take her side.
Daughter Sylvia is headed off to college and hopes to lose her virginity on this trip. Son Bobby is also there, along with his older girlfriend Carmen. His real estate business in Florida has taken a hit during the bad economy and he needs to borrow money from his parents.

The Sweet & Short Review: I loved Straub's last novel, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures , about a film star from the 1950's. She drew me into Laura's world, and I felt like I was watching a TMC movie as I was reading it.
I was hoping to be as drawn into this novel, but it didn't happen for me. I loved the setting of Mallorca, and am really interested in taking a trip there. The problem for me was that I didn't really feel invested in the characters' lives. The character I most wanted to know about was Lawrence, and he was really more of an a tangential character.
I did like the sibling relationship between Sylvia and Bobby, who have ten years age difference between them, and the scene where they went to a disco was very well done and revealing.
Straub also had some wonderful observations, like:
"Other people's families were as mysterious as an alien species, full of secret codes and shared histories."
And Franny speaking about her friendship with Charles said:
"Friendships were tricky things, especially friendships as old as theirs... Love was a given, uncomplicated by sex or vows, but honesty was always waiting there, ready to capsize the steady boat."
And thinking about her children:
"She'd always thought that siblings were pretty much the same people in differently shaped bodies, just shaken up slightly, so that the molecules arranged themselves, but now she wasn't sure."
I think splitting the focus of the story amongst the different characters, instead of focusing on just one like in Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, may be why it didn't appeal as much to me. I didn't feel like I got a complete picture of anyone. But I am in the minority here; The Vacationers made many Best of Summer lists, including a list of rave reviews found here on Parnassus Books.

rating 3.5 of 5

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