A vacation is a time to step away from your regular day-to-day life, a reprieve during which you can relax and recharge. In Emma Straub’s new novel The Vacationers, this particular getaway represents something different for each of the seven family members and friends heading to the Spanish island of Mallorca. In this character-driven novel, secrets are revealed, relationships are examined, and decisions are made, all told through some masterful storytelling.
For the Posts, a family with each individual member on the precipice of something big, this vacation couldn’t come at a better time. But they soon find that even though the scenery changes, the issues in their lives remain. Each of them, along with the friends accompanying them, comes to find these two weeks on a Spanish island to be a time of decision-making and self-discovery, a time to face what they’ve been putting off back at home.
Expertly written, the narrative pops around the cast of seven characters at an even pace, giving attention to their very disparate perspectives, ultimately giving the reader a multifaceted view of the troubling situations some of them find themselves in, while others sit on the edge of positive possibilities. Straub weaves each chapter with pieces of several characters’ stories, and with very little actual action (apropos of a vacation at a home in the sleepy island hills), the characters are the story. They remain interesting and engaging throughout the novel, and their very personal narrative arcs convey emotions– from happiness to despair, fear to joy– experienced in different ways at various ages and stages of life.
I adored this character-driven novel, most personally, for how it portrays the realities of both family and marriage, which Straub beautifully describes as “agreeing every morning to stay the course, to go back to your forgotten self of so many years ago, and to make the same decision.” Be sure to add this one to your summer reading list, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking inward after reading.