Book Review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publication Date: May 29, 2014

Dates Read: February 23 – February 27, 2016


An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.

Buy It From: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

My rating: ★★★★☆

Between the pretty cover and Indigo making it one of their books of the month, I had high expectations for this book. Luckily, it did not disappoint.

One of the first complaints other reviewers had was that every character was shallow. And while I don’t fully disagree, I found that, even though they tended to be shallow, I really enjoyed them. I liken it to the whole Kardashian thing – they’re shallow as hell, but we still enjoy watching their show(s). I consider it kind of like an adult version of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, just with more POVs and the reader knowing exactly what happens almost from the start. Basically, if you like reading about rich white families who face an unfortunate series of events, then I suggest you read this.

I can’t really place what exactly I liked about this book. I was intrigued by this family and their various relationships. I think Emma Straub is just such a good writer that she made these characters tolerable, loveable even. I rarely wanted to put it down, always wanting to keep reading and find out what happens next and what choices the characters will make. My personal favourites were Sylvia and Lawrence, at least most of the time.

I only have 2 complaints.

One: it was written in third person omniscient/omnipotent/omnipresent/whatever the right term is, and while this was pulled off a lot better than the last book that I read that had this writing, the switch from one character’s head to another was still a little strange. Maybe I just don’t dig this style.

Two: At one point, Jim remembers a past situation, and some of the words he uses were… unexpected, and kind of took me out of his character. Like, he sounded more like a teenager than a 60 year old man at that moment. It really threw me off and I had to re-read those lines to make sure I actually read it properly.

Anyway, for me there was enough drama and gossip to keep this book interesting. Secrets were revealed and feelings were hurt and rivalries are brought back and stuff happens.

Shallow? Yes. Entertaining? Totally.

Overall: While it’s not a book for everyone, it was definitely a book for me!

This review was originally posted on my booklr on February 27th, 2016


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

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