4 reviews

The Vacationers: A Novel
by Emma Straub

Published: 2014-05-29
Hardcover : 304 pages
17 members reading this now
13 clubs reading this now
6 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 4 members
"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 ...
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"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 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.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2014: Here's the funny thing about family: there's no one you love more than your relatives, and yet they're also the people who push your buttons the most. Emma Straub has captured this dilemma in her pitch-perfect second novel The Vacationers. The Post familyâ??s vacation to the Balearic island of Mallorca is one fraught with jealousy and quiet secrets. It's an anniversary for parents Franny and Jim, who are making amends for some rocky marital misgivings; their son Bobby and his much-maligned older girlfriend Carmen have a financial favor to ask; and high school-age daughter Sylvia has made it her mission to lose her virginity to her Spanish tutor. The novel is warm--not just for the sunny beaches that surround Mallorca, but for the compassion and humor that Straub imbues in her characters. The Vacationers is a summer read for sure, but you'd be hard pressed to find a smarter one. --Kevin Nguyen



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, he 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. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Franny and Charles have been friends for a long time. How does their close relationship affect other people on vacation with them?

2. From the outset, the Posts aren’t too fond of Carmen. Do you think she is treated fairly or unfairly by her boyfriend’s family?

3. How does Bobby and Sylvia’s relationship as adult siblings evolve over the course of the novel?

4. At the start of The Vacationers, Jim and Franny’s relationship is on the rocks, and it later comes dangerously close to falling apart. Is it possible to rebuild trust once it’s been lost?

5. This is a story about what we try to conceal from others, even from those closest to us, sometimes even from ourselves—and what we choose to show them instead. Have you ever felt like you’ve had to put on a good face for others?

6. What was the last vacation that you went on, and who did you go with? Did it give you a different perspective on your day-to-day life at home?

7. Do you think Bobby handled his financial difficulties the right way? Should he have kept these problems to himself or come clean to his family sooner?

8. The infidelity in Charles and Lawrence’s relationship is dealt with in a way that markedly contrasts with the other instances in The Vacationers. Does infidelity always have to be a big deal in a relationship?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

"I would read anything Emma Straub writes. She’s a natural talent and a gorgeous and witty storyteller, who makes each sentence look not only easy, but perfectly real. I came to care so deeply about every single character in this great novel that I found myself unable to go to sleep at night until I was certain they had all landed safely. And they will linger with me, this richly imagined family, long into the future.”

—Elizabeth Gilbert

“Witty, big-hearted, and packed with wisdom, this novel is a breezy read that sneaks in its emotional wallops and leaves you smiling for days.”

—Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

“Charming and absorbing, this is a novel that demands to be read in long, satisfying gulps.”

—Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

"The Vacationers is a beautifully told story that walks the tightrope of family angst and connection with hilarity and truth. Get ready for the Post family drama, where the near empty nest collides with the dreams of the new generation. Emma Straub's writing is deft, clear and wise in ways that will surprise and delight you. It's a beyond the beach read. It's Ms. Straub at her dazzling best."

—Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker’s Wife

"A novel that is both a lot of fun to read and has plenty of insight into the marital bond and the human condition.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The pacing is quick but satisfying and the characters themselves feel genuinely complex, interesting, and knowledgeable...A pleasant, readable journey.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Straub’s characters are suffused with humor and humanity, their relationships every bit as fragile and flawed–but also resilient–as we know to be true of real life…This novel is an utter delight and the perfect read for a sunny afternoon. It rings with truth and shines with the confidence of a writer hitting her stride.”


Book Club Recommendations

Spanish-Inspired Supper
by phesselbart (see profile) 05/27/16
We had fun with sangria, tapas, and paella. We even enjoyed a Mediterranean Martini!
Don't select this book
by garland (see profile) 07/21/14

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Blair E. (see profile) 10/01/14

It started out interesting, but as I continued reading I became a little bored. It was like following along a semi-dysfunctional family on their typical summer vacation. Not much too it, but not terrible.... (read more)

by grace s. (see profile) 11/11/22

by Katie B. (see profile) 05/01/19

by deborah b. (see profile) 11/16/17

We found it to be a fun read. The locale was beautiful, the basis of the book was a fun idea, but nothing out of the ordinary in the story line.

  "Nice Summer Read"by Pam H. (see profile) 05/27/16

Some members of the book club found this very flat, while others enjoyed the more uplifting ending. Was middle of the road for us.

  "The Vactioners"by Diane S. (see profile) 10/14/15

I liked this book. It was a light read. Good for the beach or relaxing.

  "vacationers"by Marilyn C. (see profile) 09/16/15

Dislikable characters, pointless plot and ...

  "The Vacationers"by Maryann G. (see profile) 07/30/14

More substantial than your usual beach read but just as much fun. The characters were all well drawn and I was eager to find out what was going to happen next. Very enjoyable.

  "The Vacationers"by Garland P. (see profile) 07/21/14

It was boring and very anti-climatic.

  "The Vacationers"by Veronica P. (see profile) 06/13/14

Well written and highly recommended.

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