I know, I know. Stop the presses! Another book review so soon? I got off my lazy butt (just kidding, I’m writing this on my ipad while watching Orange Is The New Black and drinking wine…it’s a hard life I lead) to write you a special review of a book you simply HAVE to read before the summer’s over. And time is ticking guys! We’ve got like a week and a half before Labor Day – the perfect amount of time to race through Emma Straub’s The Vacationers. Though you probably won’t need it, it’s that good.
I know I say this about every book, or at least the ones I deign worthy of a review, but I loved this book. It is absolutely perfect to read at the end of summer. It’s light and funny and packs a heartwarming emotional punch that leaves you nostalgic and so, so happy. It’s simple in theory; The Vacationers follows the Post family on a two-week vacation in sunny Mallorca. First of all, it sounds like pure paradise. A gorgeous private villa in a small Spanish island town surrounded by mountains and cliffs and spotless beaches. Uh, yes please. I can catch the first flight in the morning. But of course, life for the Posts is not paradise. Jim and Franny are trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath of his affair (and disgraceful lay-off) after 35 years of marriage. Their daughter Sylvia just wants to get through the last few mind-numbing weeks before college – oh, and lose her virginity if at all possible. Their son is secretly hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and stuck in a dead end relationship with a woman ten years his senior who no one likes. Soooo tension. Add a super hot Spanish tutor and a famous tennis player (modeled after Rafa Nadal perhaps?) to the mix and things are ripe to blow up into some delicious family drama.
This book is oh so fun. The characters are delightfully flawed and just the perfect amount of self-absorbed. And you can tell Emma Straub really loves them. I loved them too. Sylvia is quick and sarcastically witty, obviously hiding her vulnerability in teenage surliness. Franny loves to cook enormous amounts of delicious food to try to keep everyone together and make them love her. Carmen (the noxious girlfriend) avoids her disappointment in her life in endless burpees (shudder). They are so complex and truly make this character drama sing. As if it could get any better, Straub’s writing is so buttery-smooth and enjoyable to read. This Goodreads review says it so well because there’s so much to enjoy: “I loved many, many other things about this book—the food, the weather, the atmosphere, the dialogue, the sexy moments, the characters’ wonderful little quirks. (I’d love to quote you some specifics, but immediately handed the book over to my mom upon turning the last page.) But one of the things I loved the most is that all the braided plotlines were resolved in really satisfying ways, and it felt like everyone absolutely got what they deserved—both good and bad. That was really a relief for me; maybe I’ve gone soft, but I’m sick to death of reading about crummy characters who win, or wonderful characters who get fucked (in the bad way). ” I agree. The ending is so great and I want everyone to experience it too.
In the end, 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. It makes you love your family and appreciate the imperfect life you’ve made for yourself. And of course, the occasional trip away to strip away the all the lies. Go read it. NOW.
Rating: 9, Just shy of perfect (Can’t put it down! Well rounded with exceptional characters and style.)