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The Vacationers
Cover of The Vacationers
The Vacationers
A Novel
"Delicious . . . richly riveting . . . The Vacationers offers all the delights of a fluffy, read-it-with-sunglasses-on-the-beach read, made substantial by the exceptional wit, insight, intelligence and talents of its author."—People (four stars)
An irresistible, deftly observed novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of Modern Lovers, 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
"Delicious . . . richly riveting . . . The Vacationers offers all the delights of a fluffy, read-it-with-sunglasses-on-the-beach read, made substantial by the exceptional wit, insight, intelligence and talents of its author."—People (four stars)
An irresistible, deftly observed novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of Modern Lovers, 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***


    Copyright © 2014 by Emma Straub


    Day One

    Leaving always came as a surprise, no matter how long the dates had been looming on the calendar. Jim had packed his suitcase the night before, but now, moments before their scheduled departure, he was wavering. Had he packed enough books? He walked back and forth in front of the bookshelf in his office, pulling novels out by their spines and then sliding them back into place. Had he packed his running shoes? Had he packed his shaving cream? Elsewhere in the house, Jim could hear his wife and their daughter in similar last-minute throes of panic, running up and down the stairs with one last item that had been forgotten in a heap by the door.

    There were things that Jim would have taken out of his bags, if it had been possible: the last year of his life, and the five before that, when it came to his knees; the way Franny looked at him across the dinner table at night; the feeling of himself inside a new mouth for the first time in three decades, and how much he wanted to stay there; the emptiness waiting on the other side of the return flight, the blank days he would have to fill and fill and fill. Jim sat down at his desk and waited for someone to tell him that he was needed elsewhere.

    Sylvia waited in front of the house, staring down 75th Street, toward Central Park. Both of her parents were the type that believed that a taxi would always present itself at just the right moment, especially on summer weekends, when traffic in the city was lightest. Sylvia thought that was horseshit. The only thing worse than spending two of her last six weeks before leaving for college on vacation with her parents would be missing the flight and having to spend one of those final nights sleeping upright in an airport lounge, a stained seat cushion as her only comfort. She would get the taxi herself.

    It wasn't as if she wanted to spend the whole summer in Manhattan, which turned into a melting concrete armpit. The idea of Mallorca was appealing, in theory: it was an island, which promised little waves and nice breezes, and she could practice her Spanish, which she had done well in during high school. Everyone—literally everyone—from her graduating class was doing nothing all summer long, just taking turns hosting parties when their parents went to Wainscott or Woodstock or somewhere else with wood-shingled houses that looked distressed on purpose. Sylvia had looked at their faces enough for the last eighteen years, and couldn't wait to get the hell out. Sure, yes, there were four other kids from her class going to Brown, but she never had to speak to them again if she didn't want to, and that was the plan. Find new friends. Make a new life. Finally be somewhere where the name Sylvia Post came without the ghosts of the girl she'd been at sixteen, at twelve, at five, where she was detached from her parents and her brother and she could just be, like an astronaut floating in space, unencumbered by gravity. Come to think of it, Sylvia wished that they were spending the whole summer abroad. This way, she would still have to suffer through August at home, when the parties were sure to reach their weepy and desperate apex. Sylvia did not plan to weep.

    A taxi with its light on rounded the corner and came slowly toward her, bouncing its way over the potholes. Sylvia stuck one arm in the air and dialed her home phone number with her other hand. It rang and rang, and was ringing still when the taxi came to a halt. Her parents were inside, doing god knows what. Sylvia opened the door to the taxi and leaned into the...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 24, 2014
    The Post family is going to Mallorca for two weeks of vacation, but for them clouds are forming over the sunlit destination: the tickets were already booked when it came to light that Jim, Post père, has recently committed transgressions grave enough to get him fired and infuriate Franny, his wife of 35 years. The couple’s youngest daughter, Sylvia, has just graduated from high school and her parents are anxious to have one last family holiday before she becomes an adult. Joining them are Sylvia’s older brother and his girlfriend, as well as Franny’s best friend Charles and his husband. Every couple, and indeed every individual, arrives with a mix of optimism and trepidation, along with a host of uncertainties that, by book’s end, are satisfyingly resolved. Straub (Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures) seems to have found her stride. The pacing is quick but satisfying and the characters themselves feel genuinely complex, interesting, and knowable. While the structure of the novel does feel somewhat unoriginal—it begins with the airport, ends with the plane home, and the chapters in between are days of the trip—Straub uses the simplicity of the organization to her advantage. A pleasant, readable journey.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 15, 2014
    Straub refreshes a conventional plot through droll humor and depth of character. By now, the premise is so familiar it seems like such a novel could write itself, but it wouldn't write itself nearly as engagingly as Straub has (Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, 2012, etc.). Starting with the somewhat generic title, she has all the predictable elements in place: family and close friends gathering at an exotic remove from their daily lives, reveal secrets (and articulate unacknowledged truths), learn how well they know each other and how well they don't, discover which relationships will endure--even strengthen--and which will dissolve. At the end of the idyll--in this case two weeks on the Spanish island of Mallorca--all will return transformed. The reason for this group gathering is the 35th anniversary of Jim and Franny and the high school graduation of their daughter, Sylvia. Franny is a successful journalist, specializing in travel pieces, and Jim had a career at a GQ-style magazine until he lost his job as editor for reasons that threaten their marriage. Sylvia is the novel's most perceptive character, with a single goal for the vacation--losing her virginity. Joining them are their older son, Bobby, and his older girlfriend, whose lives in Florida are something of a mystery to the New York family, as well as Franny's lifelong friend Charles and his husband, Lawrence. From the periphery, Lawrence observes that "[o]ther people's families were as mysterious as an alien species, full of secret codes and shared histories." Yet even those who share that history remain enigmas to each other, as Franny discovers about Jim: "What did anyone know about anyone else, including the person they were married to?" Ultimately, the reader will savor the novel's illumination of these characters, who are neither good nor evil but all too human. Will Jim and Franny stay together? Will Sylvia achieve her goal? A novel that is both a lot of fun to read and has plenty of insight into the marital bond and the human condition.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2014

    Straub's second novel (after Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures) is perfect vacation reading, combining a warm-weather locale with complicated family drama. The Post family is leaving Manhattan for their long-planned trip to Mallorca, an intended celebration of both Franny and Jim's 35th wedding anniversary and daughter Sylvia's high school graduation. They've rented a house where they will be joined by family and friends: their son, Bobby; his girlfriend, Carmen; and Franny's best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence. If their plans didn't involve other people, Franny and Jim might have called this vacation off, as family tensions have been growing over the hushed-up reason for Jim's recent forced retirement. As it is, corralling all these people into one house for a two-week stretch unleashes more emotional upheaval than could have been predicted. The arrival of a handsome local who is supposed to be tutoring Sylvia in Spanish only fuels the fire. Secrets and longings are revealed, and relationships shift into new configurations--with unexpected hopefulness in the story's conclusion. VERDICT An examination of fidelity, passion, and the vagaries of relationships, this is summer reading with some sizzle and seriousness. [See Prepub Alert, 1/19/14.]--Melanie Kindrachuk, Stratford P.L., Ont.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    October 1, 2014

    Gr 9 Up-In this delightful concoction, family and friends come together for two weeks of summer vacation on the island of Mallorca. Franny is a freelance magazine writer about food from different regions. She's currently not speaking to her husband, a magazine editor recently dismissed for sleeping with an employee only a few years older than their daughter, Sylvia. The teen cannot wait to start at Brown University in the fall. All she wants from this vacation is to lose her virginity and try to forget her best friend's betrayal. Cue Joan, the gorgeous local college boy Franny has hired to tutor Sylvia in Spanish. Also in attendance, Franny's best friend of 40 years, Charles, to provide comfort and counsel. Charles and his husband, Lawrence, are waiting to hear whether they've been chosen to adopt a baby boy. Sylvia's older brother Bobby and Bobby's much-older girlfriend, Carmen fly in from Miami. Straub fleshes out all of these characters, effortlessly illuminating their foibles and mistakes, mitigated by the grace of forgiveness and familial understanding. Just as a great recipe is balanced and spiced, so Straub mixes the stress and comedy of a family vacation spent in close quarters to delightful effect.-Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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