Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: The Vacationers

The Vacationers
by Emma Straub

Why did you choose this book? I won an advanced copy
When did you read this book? May 2014
Who should read this book? readers who might like a modern day fairy tale
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of The Vacationers from Penguin First To Read

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.
My Review

This one was a disappointment to me. I received a copy from the Penguin First To Read program, and picked it because it appeared to be a good summer read, complete with a family vacationing on a beautiful island. Unfortunately, the book got off to a slow start and never really picked up. The highlight of this book was the description of the scenery.

The Post family is incredibly dysfunctional. Jim has recently lost his job due to a very poor decision he made. He is married to Franny, who is ready to leave him because of his mistake. She is justifiably angry, and normally I would be in her corner, but within the first few pages, I began to wonder why Jim was even worried about her staying. He should have been out of there long ago! She is self-centered, loud, and controlling. Their son Bobby is a needy, 20-something, who brings his 40 year old live-in girlfriend, Carmen, along on the vacation. They have been together for quite some time, but Carmen is still treated like an unwanted outsider, tolerated but not welcomed. Daughter Sylvia has just graduated high school, dislikes everyone from her school and can’t wait to move on from them, and seems to have the sole goal of losing her virginity on vacation. Accompanying them on vacation are Franny’s gay friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence, who is about the only semi-likeable character in the book! This is about as dislikeable a cast of characters as I’ve come across.  

While there is some resolution of the problems at the end of the book, it comes just a bit too neatly. [SPOILER ALERT!] Just one example, Lawrence really wants to adopt a child but Charles is not sure he is on board with that, and neither of them really hold out much hope that as a gay couple, they will be chosen as adoptive parents anyway. Miraculously, by the end of the two weeks, a baby has become available to them and Charles is completely ready for this baby to come into their lives. I don’t remember him ever even discussing his hesitation with Lawrence! [End SPOILER ALERT!]

This book did not work for me, but if you take a look at Goodreads, you will see ratings are all over the place. Just because I didn’t like the book does not mean you will not like it. Read through some of the reviews on Goodreads and at First To Read to help you decide if this book is for you!

Below you can see the author discussing The Vacationers to give you a bit of an idea on whether you might enjoy the book.

My Rating:  ★★   2 Stars

I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program in return for an honest review.
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