Emma Straub’s sharply astute new novel
A two-week trip to a villa in Mallorca. Sounds idyllic, right?
Not exactly, when you’re traveling with the Posts, the stars of Emma Straub’s domestic page-turner, The Vacationers.
In her sophomore novel, Straub dips in and out of the heads of everyone on the trip. At the center are Franny and Jim, whose marriage of 35 years threatens to crumble in the wake of an affair. Then there’s their teenage daughter, Sylvia, and adult son, Bobby (who, much to his parents’ chagrin, has brought along his personal-trainer girlfriend, Carmen). Also in tow is Franny’s best friend, Charles, and his much younger husband, Lawrence.
Almost immediately, major tensions start to mount: Jim reveals he's just lost his job, Bobby needs to borrow money, Sylvia is desperate to lose her virginity before returning stateside. But Straub is at her best when exploring the subtle nuances in relationships: Lawrence’s niggling sense that Franny is Charles’s top priority, Sylvia’s suspicions that her brother is a jerk, Franny’s growing fear that the much-maligned Carmen might be better behaved than either of her children.
Straub is also attuned to the big beating heart beneath the dysfunction. We do love our families, after all. We just don’t always want to vacation with them.