Rated Reads

The Vacationers

by Emma Straub

Rated: High

The Posts are falling apart. Frannie has hit midlife and is feeling kind of unmoored. Her 35-year marriage to Jim is falling apart: Jim had an affair with a 23-year-old and subsequently got fired from his cushy job at a top magazine. Their 28-year-old son, Bobby, is in a long-term relationship with a much older woman that seems to be going nowhere. And their daughter, Sylvia, who is probably the most “normal,” feels a need to reinvent herself. So they indulge in what has to be a rich-person’s fantasy: they rent a house in Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain, for two weeks. A vacation will surely solve all their problems.

This book, in so many ways, is so very voyeuristic. The way the narration works allows us to see into the thoughts of everyone in the vacation house: not just the Post family, but also Frannie’s best friend Charles and his husband, Lawrence, as well as the woman Bobby’s been seeing, Carmen. And even though I think the narration is supposed to help readers feel connected to the characters and their problems, mostly I just felt like an intruder. And because of that, I found myself not caring about anyone.

That’s not entirely true: the most sympathetic storyline is Charles and Lawrence’s hope to adopt a baby. They are the most stable couple, the most adult, and therefore the most sympathetic. Everyone else seems annoying in comparison.

It was one I was tempted to abandon; however, the thing that really kept me reading was that Emma Straub does do a wonderful job capturing Mallorca in my imagination. It seems like a beautiful place, somewhere I’d like to visit some day. The Vacationers would have been more enjoyable — for me — if there were less emphasis on the angst and more on the place and the food Frannie was cooking for everyone.

It’s too bad that rich-people first-world problems get in the way of such a gorgeous setting.

Rated: High for a half-dozen f-bombs, some graphic talk about sex and some non-graphic actual sex.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • The Vacationers
  • by Emma Straub
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: