Emma Straub’s delightful second novel, The Vacationers, is the best work yet from this Brooklyn-based writer, who previously penned the quirky short story collection Other People We Married and the historical novel Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.
The Vacationers begins as the Post family is getting ready to leave their Upper West Side apartment for a two-week vacation on the island of Mallorca. Franny is a zaftig travel writer who treats food as a means of therapy; her husband, Jim, was just fired from his longtime job as a magazine editor after having an affair with an editorial assistant barely older than his daughter. Only mildly aware of her parents’ marital problems, Sylvia is focused on starting at Brown in the fall, far away from the brutality of high school bullies.
Joining the group is Sylvia’s older brother Bobby (a Miami real estate agent) and his personal trainer girlfriend, Carmen. Rounding out the bunch of vacationers is Franny’s best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence, who are awaiting possible good news from an adoption agency.
But while Franny meant for the trip to celebrate her and Jim’s 35th anniversary along with Sylvia’s high school graduation, the vacation turns into something much heavier as tensions are inflamed, jealousies are ignited and, ultimately, those pesky family secrets are revealed.
Straub transports her readers to an idyllic paradise of cobblestone streets, olive-tree-strewn hillsides, stunning beaches and rich, foreign delicacies, even as she creates an all-too-real family drama. The Vacationers is as refreshing as a frozen strawberry daiquiri and full of crisply drawn characters you’ll feel you’ve come to know.