That’s What She Read: The Vacationers a novel by Emma Straub


I started The Vacationers with high hopes; the excerpt I’d read online had intrigued me; Manhattan family with many issues to sort out books an idyllic two week vacation on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Sand, summer, someone else’s dysfunctional family; a fun read, right? And the first part of the book, getting to know the characters and the island was enjoyable, the pacing quick, light and breezy. But as I continued reading, I found less and less to like about the main character, Franny. She is the very controlling wife of Jim, who cheated on Franny spectacularly in an affair with an intern where he lost his job as editor of a men’s lifestyle magazine. Sylvia is Franny’s spoiled, bored, disaffected teenager, while her son, Bobby is just boring. Supporting characters Carmen and Franny’s best friend, Charles, and his husband are drawn more fully and are much more interesting, but we get too little of them and alas too little as well of a motorcycle riding, tattooed vacationing pediatrician who vrooms in and helps to save Franny and Jim’s marriage. I think I kept reading because I wondered what would happen to Carmen – would she drop the vacuous, drifting Bobby and jettison his disapproving family? Would Charles and Lawrence learn that their adoption went through? The setting kept my interest as well; Straub did a great job evoking Mallorca and its island charms. I wish the main characters had been equally enthralling and likeable. Do I recommend this novel? Probably not, unless you have absolutely nothing else to read.