(This review contains no Spoilers!)
Emma Straub's new novel, THE VACATIONERS, is a quirky, enjoyable read that though it has a good amount of family angst and problems, was not at all full of knuckle-biting, full on drama. The story centers around a Manhattan family, the Posts, and their two-week vacation in Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain. On the trip are Franny and Jim Post, their daugher Sylvia, who just graduated from high school, her older brother Bobby and his girlfriend Carmen who live together in Florida. Also on the trip is Franny's close friend Charles and his husband Lawrence. They'll be staying in a house owned by one of Charles' friends.
Early on we learn there is something going on with Franny and Jim's 30-something year marriage, but that isn't divulged right away. Hints are dropped and conclusions are made by the reader. Sylvia, the only child still living at home, knows what's happening and just wants to start her new college life in the fall. Bobby and Carmen don't know what the trouble with his parents is but they do have a hidden agenda for coming on this trip with Carmen being the driving force and Bobby feeling very uncomfortable about it. Charles and Lawrence are at a point where they are ready for the next step in their lives but it brings a lot of uncertainty and they aren't quite yet ready to tell anyone, even Charles' best friend, Franny, who thinks Charles tells her EVERYTHING. With all of these diverse personalities and complicated issues, this family vacation is full of surprises and realizations. Hopefully they can all get through it.
I was looking for something a little different when I chose this book. I wanted an entertaining summer read that was fun but also had a good story. The Twitter-verse was buzzing about Emma Straub and her new book and I was looking for my next audiobook. After sampling the narration, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for.
The Post family, though flawed, is a great family. One thing I liked right away was that the story was told by different family members, giving a broad knowledge of all their personalities and their perceptions. My favorite was Sylvia in all of her young, sometimes naive knowledge, and the innocence of not yet living life on her own yet. Honestly, I liked all of the characters and they liked each other, though there were some issues.
The Posts were in beautiful Mallorca for two weeks so Straub broke down the chapters by days. There was a different chapter for each day and I thought that was a great idea for the theme of this book. There wa such great ebb and glow with this novel. I literally breezed right through it in a matter of a few days. The house in Mallorca sounded so fabulous, I just wanted to be transported there so badly, I think I lived vicariously through them.
I've never read anything else by Emma Straub but I can easily say that I did like her writing style. Listening to this book was was much like sitting down with a group of friends and chatting. I'm positive that the printed version would be a quick, easy-flowing page turner. Her writing is not complicated its straitforward and to the point.
This character-driven story was full of complicated issues and conflicting personalities but I was pleasantly surprised their weren't more actual arguments. These are mature, intelligent charterers and even when punches were being thrown, it wasn't awful, just surprising, like 'Wow! I can't believe he actually did it!' I really enjoyed this story and the people in it and because its only 301 printed pages, I think its a great book for summer and I think its going to be a big hit this season.
As you well know, narration can make or break an audiobook and for me, Kristin Sieh did an awesome job. To be honest, at first I wasn't sure, but soon her somewhat raspy voice won me over. I thought it was especially conducive to Sylvia's character, though she did an amazing job with all of them, even the minor characters with thick accents. Ms. Sieh completely pulled me in and made me forget I was being read to and put me right into the story. That is the mark of a great narrator!
Overall, I think THE VACATIONERS would be a great book to take on your summer vacation or to the beach. Its fun, light and a little quirky but underneath all that is a meaningful story about family, change, and the bonds of love that keep people connected.
THE VACATIONERS (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Emma Straub (@emmastraub)
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: May 29, 2014
Length: 6 Hrs 39 Mins
Printed Length: 301 pp