Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: The Vacationers (Audio)

Summary: 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. -- Penguin Audio

I'm pretty sure that THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub made almost every Best of Summer 2014 list. It has received fantastic praise from... everyone and I can certainly see why. I adored this book! My only regret is that I didn't have it with me last week during my vacation. Of course, my trip to the Outer Banks can't compare to the characters' trip to Mallorca!

THE VACATIONERS tells the story of the Posts, a family who takes a two week trip to Mallorca with their family and friends. Franny and Jim are (supposedly) celebrating their 35th anniversary, while their daughter Sylvia is getting ready to head to Brown in the fall. Their son Bobby also comes along with his long-time (and much older) girlfriend Carmen, and Franny's best friend Charles brings his husband Laurence.

While Mallorca is the idea getaway spot, these characters can't escape what's going on in their lives. Jim and Franny are having marital issues after Jim's affair surfaced (not to mention he lost his job as a result of it!) Charles and Laurence are waiting to hear if their hopes for adopting a baby will finally come true. And Bobby and Carmen are having their fair share of relationship woes.

This novel is a wonderful glimpse inside the lives of the very interesting characters, and I was so entertained by their personal thoughts and their interactions with each other. There is no doubt that Mrs. Straub is a master storyteller and has some serious writing skills. She picked a wonderful setting in the island of Mallorca; and her descriptions of the mountains, houses, and more were great. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these characters' issues and how they worked (or not worked) them out.

There are truly many wonderful things about THE VACATIONERS and I could go into detail about many of them. One of the things that I appreciated the most was the character development of Franny and Sylvia. Franny decided to take this vacation not really knowing if she could forgive her husband for his transgressions. Franny was also on the brink of having her younger child move out for college. I loved how well the author managed to bring her conflicts to life; and even though the outcome might have been a little predictable, I enjoyed seeing how she worked through her feelings of loss.

In addition, I appreciated Sylvia's character and how she was still reeling from the betrayal of her friends in addition to dealing with her parents' differences. I found many of Sylvia's comments to be spot on for a jaded teenager and I admit she probably provided the most comic relief for me!

THE VACATIONERS is both entertaining and thought-provoking; and as a result, it would make an ideal book club selection. There is a reading guide available with eight questions, but I'm sure you won't have any problems discussing this cast of characters. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, relationships, friendships, second chances, infidelity, secrets, trust, and the big one... betrayal. (I think each character has to deal with cheating in one way or another!)

I actually listened to the audio version of THE VACATIONERS which was read by Kristen Sieh. I won't swear to it, but I think she's a new-to-me narrator. For what it's worth, I thought she did a great job with all of the characters, especially Sylvia. She read the story with emotion and humor and I wouldn't hesitate to try another audio book that she's narrated.

Overall, THE VACATIONERS was a great summer read. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this audio book.


bermudaonion said...

I've got this in print and need to pull it out before the summer finishes flying by!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) said...

I thought I would love this book and ended up being disappointed. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen and also didn't love the characters. I was especially annoyed by Franny - she seemed like too much of a martyr. I realize I'm in the minority on this one, but I just didn't think it lived up to the hype.