90 of 102 people found the following review helpful
It is hard to distinguish yourself as an author in the dysfunctional family arena. Authors have already taken me to a shiva, summer houses, weddings and funerals. This time a two week vacation in Mallorca, Spain becomes the backdrop, as we follow the ups and downs of the Post family and friends.
From the beginning, no one is particularly thrilled about this sojourn. Initially booked as a 35th wedding anniversary present, the Post marriage is now in flux. 60 year old Jim has recently been forced to resign as the editor of a New York Magazine for his dalliance with a 23 year old intern. His wife Fanny is a writer "going around the world and writing about what she ate" is deciding what her next course of action might be. Sylvia, their 18 year old daughter, is ready to begin Brown University in the fall and wants to lose her virginity. She is disheartened to see the fighting among her parents and has recently gone through her own angst due to her girl /boyfriend's duplicitous actions. 28 year old Bobby is a realtor and lives in Florida. He is a casualty of the real-estate bubble. He has been living with his girlfriend Carmen, who is 10 years older, for seven years without making a commitment. Carmen is an instructor at the Total Body Power and feels like an outsider, everything she does in order to please her boyfriend's family "never seemed to be right". Charles is Fanny's best friend and he and husband Lawrence have been trying to adopt a baby to complete their family.
Author Emma Straub appears to make all the right decisions. Instead of using alternating chapters with a lot of back-story, she jumps from character to character, as the book starts on Day One of the vacation and ends on Day Fourteen. This keeps the pace flowing as you are never bogged down with a story-line that is wearisome. Mallorca, in all its beauty, lends to the atmosphere that cries out "beach read".
This is a book filled with knowable characters whose relationships authentically capture the discord that is sometimes part of family life. While it must be challenging to come up with a new spin on dysfunctional families, these characters were well drawn and likeable and some of the observations in the book were spot on. Many of the characters do grow and learn from their mistakes and while the ending may be predictable, there is nothing wrong with a feel good conclusion. It you indulge in this genre of book, it is recommended.
"Friendships were tricky things, especially friendships as old as theirs was. Nudity was nothing more than a collection of hard-earned scars and marks. Love was a given, uncomplicated by sex or vows, but honesty was always waiting there, ready to capsize the steady boat".
4-1/2 stars rounded to 5.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2014
This book started out with potential, but went nowhere. The characters were poorly developed and I found myself not caring about them at all. The "climax" was so anticlimactic and completely predictable in every aspect. Additionally, this book was set in place that the author didn't bother to describe at all.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2014
Just finished this book and logged on to write a short review while it was fresh in my mind. I was shocked to see so many negative one and two star ratings. I will admit that The Vacationers is not great literature or in danger of winning a Pulitzer, but it's a perfectly good little novel and quite entertaining. I thought the characters were well defined and of varied enough interests to keep me guessing where it would go next. This was a group situation of family/friends spending two weeks together, albeit in paradise, still in a confined setting. We all know the little nuances, annoyances, and petty upsets that can arise in such circumstances, and I thought the author did a good job of conveying the emotions that each character experienced. I definitely came away with a feeling of the love/hate relationship which exists in all families, and in the end felt I knew the Post clan pretty well. The ultimate outcome was more or less what I expected but not what I would call predictable. I enjoyed it immensely and recommend it for anyone who wants a light, easy read, a little literary getaway so to speak. If you're taking a holiday to the beach this summer, this is the perfect book to pack.
40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Meet the Post family and their entourage as they all descend on Mallorca for a two week vacation. They have rented a house that they think is 'large enough' to hold their secrets and dysfunctions. However, nothing remains secret for very long.
The Post family is at time of transition. Franny and Jim have been married for thirty-five years and it is quite possible that they will get divorced. Jim has had an affair with a very young woman at his work-place, someone only a few years older than his daughter. Not only has he lost his job as the editor of Gallant magazine because of his indiscretion, but he might also lose his wife who he still loves very much. He is floundering and not ready for this imposed early retirement at sixty years old. Franny, who writes about food for a living, finds it almost impossible to be around Jim since his affair. Forgiving him seems to be out of the question.
Sylvia Post is eighteen years old and headed to Brown University in the fall. She wants to reinvent herself in college and is sick of everyone who has known her in school since she was a child. One of her pressing goals is to lose her virginity. This is a big task for a young woman who has been kissed only six times since she was twelve. She is worried about her parents' relationship as she has overheard their arguments at home.
Bobby Post is twenty-eight and living in Miami with Carmen, a woman more than a decade older than him who his family does not like. Bobby's job selling real estate went under because of the crash in the Florida real estate market. He works as an assistant trainer at the health club where he met Carmen, also a trainer. Bobby invested all his money in an Amway-like distribution scheme to sell whey products to work-out fanatics. He is now in huge debt and Carmen wants him to ask his parents to bail him out. Carmen is not sure where she stands with Bobby and their relationship feels like it is at a standstill.
Charles is Franny's best friend. He and his husband, Lawrence, accompany the Posts on this vacation. Charles is an artist and Lawrence works for the film industry as an accountant. They may be adopting a baby but are holding this information close to their chests. They have been trying to adopt for a long time and just before the vacation, the social worker at the adoption center told them that they were being seriously considered as parents for the new-born 'Alphonse'.
Into this mixture of people comes Joan (pronounced Johann), a gorgeous looking Mallorcan who is hired to be Sylvia's Spanish tutor for the two weeks that they will be on vacation. Sylvia has her sights set on seducing Joan but does not know the first thing about being a seductress.
The novel is told from different characters' vantage points. The person who stood out the most for me was Sylvia. She seemed very much alive and real. Some of the other characters felt a bit flat and not fleshed out. I think this is a good book to bring on an airplane or to the beach. It is a page-turner and an easy read.
51 of 67 people found the following review helpful
This summer I told myself that I would try to read as many books that took place on a body of water (i.e. a lake or ocean). For some reason, these kinds of setting always remind me of my summer vacations as a child. So I made a pact with myself that no matter where I can physically located this summer, I will mentally be at the beach. "The Vacationers" is one in my long list of books with such a setting (it takes place on a Spanish island). While it's not at the top of the list, "We Are Liars" has that spot, it certainly is not at the bottom.
The Posts are part of Manhattan society, but that doesn't mean that they're spared when it comes to familial issues. The Posts are certainly not lacking in that department, and this vacation means something different to each of them. Jim, the father, is trying to escape the fact that he has been fired due to a scandal of his own making at the magazine in which he was employed. Franny, the mother, is trying to get some distance from her husband and hopefully decide the next step she should take in her marriage. Sylvia, the daughter, has just graduated high school and wants to get away so she can take the first steps in re-inventing herself for college. Bobby, the son, is flying in from Miami where he lives with his personal trainer girlfriend (who no one likes). Along for the ride are husbands Charles and Lawrence, who are desperate to adopt a baby. When they all come together, it feels as if the island isn't big enough to contain the drama that unfolds.
For all of the baggage that these travelers brought, there wasn't as much of an explosion as I thought. Everyone meets on an island off the coast of Spain where they take up residence in a lovely cottage for two weeks. Emotions fly and people's loyalties are tested as the truth slowly unfolds. The ending was extremely predictable and therefore not as satisfying as I had hoped. Still, this was an enjoyable read and one that would work well in any beach bag this summer!
33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
How this dreadful book received not one but two good reviews in the august New York Times can only be a testament to 1) how low the Times has fallen in literary standards or 2) that the fix was in because Ms. Straub's father is a best selling author. The novel takes us on a two week summer vacation with an elite Manhattan family. They decide to leave their multi-million dollar limestone in the City for gorgeous Mallorca, Spain. This is a family in trouble. The mom, Franny is a well known writer, part Joan Didion part Ruth Reichl. The husband, 60 year old Jim, is the editor of a men's magazine and has just been fired from this job because of his dalliance with a 23 year old magazine intern who just happens to be the daughter of a member of the magazine's board of directors. Also on vacation is Sylvia, their 18 year old private school daughter, about to leave home for an Ivy League university and her 28 year old brother who is into real estate in Miami and is living with a dim witted older woman who is a personal trainer. Rounding things out are Charles, Franny's gay best friend and his husband, the younger Lawrence. Of course for interest sake a gorgeous, young Spaniard Joan (pronounced Joe...ahhhn) is thrown into the mix to give the virginal Sylvia Spanish lessons. The cliched cast of characters alone is enough to make one lose one's breakfast.
What ensues is truly soporific. If you need an evening sleeping pill just dip into a few pages. Nothing interesting happens, just pages of mindless yakking. Even the gorgously raw island of Mallorca can't be brought to life by this terrible author. Save your money and your eyes this summer and read something else.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2015
I've just started Chapter Six, 41% of the way through, says my Kindle. I bought it because of a review in my local newspaper, which introduced this as Peter Straub's daughter's work, and said that he had thought very highly of it, and for reasons that completely escape me at this moment, I concluded that his critical evaluation was surely disinterested, and no doubt entirely trustworthy. As I admire Peter Straub, I thought to myself, "Naturally, if HE thinks this work is publishable, it must be very fine indeed!" My first mistake was forgetting that I too am a parent, and OF COURSE he is going to think that it is a work of genius. My second mistake was not reading the rest of the review, which says that the book was rejected by something like 100 editors before it was picked up. My third mistake was not seeing that one of the Amazon reviews was from the School Library Journal, and it began, "Gr 9 Up—." Had I paid the slightest bit of attention to any one of these, I would have realized that there was a high likelihood that this 'great beach read' would be banal, trivial, boring, and utterly unredeemed by characters or situations that in which I could generate sufficient interest to like or dislike. I would have given this book only one star, but this book is redeemed by two things:
The dialogue is handled well. No adverbs, no godawful awkward self-conscious nonsense, just good dialogue that actually works, doesn't get in the way, does its job without annoying the heck out of me, and represents the characters and situations reasonably well
The plot works well on paper, if you know what I mean. The elements are there for a not-too-bad book. It's just that in these hands it's a not-very-good book, a sad waste of the characters' time, as well as mine.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2014
Boring boring boring. This book has no substance. I'm not even finished with this book, and I still wouldn't recommend it to anyone that I like. I'm about 3/4 ways through, and nothing substantial or interesting has happened. The characters have no personalities. Man, I wish I didn't spend 15 dollars on this crap.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2014
The usually predictably disfunctional American family goes on holidays on the Mediterranean Sea. Nobody cares for each other and nobody cares (including the author) to make any connections with the history and culture of the beautiful country they are visiting. Everybody is too busy with their own very little and very miserable selves. The women are over sensitive, over assertive or aimlessly searching for themselves, the guys are insecure morons &/or ego centered cheats, with the exception of a gay couple of guys who are so honey sweet and nurturing that they would make the perfect darlings of this story, had the author remembered to make them somewhat real. It is the type of book that you would gladly leave on the shelf of the Bed & Breakfast's library where you found it. It will motivate the next guests to go out for a walk, even if it's raining.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2014
This book has been touted as a great summer read, but buyer beware. It is full of one-dimensional characters that have incredibly boring lives that all end up on an island together. There you go, that is a synopsis of this book. Because really, nothing else of consequence happens that makes this book worth reading. Skip it. I am sorry I bought it and am once again annoyed that I wasted time reading it.