As the title might suggest, “The Vacationers” is about a vacation. But it is not a young family’s trip to the beach or an older couple moving to Florida; it is the story of a rich, New York family’s trip to Spain and the changing nature of the many relationships.
Franny and Jim Post have come to a major breaking point in their marriage. After 34 years, Jim cheated on Franny with a 23-year-old intern at his office. They never tell their oldest son Bobby, who lives in Florida, about what happened, but their daughter, Sylvia, figures most of it out.
Even before the vacation begins, Emma Straub packs the story with tension, which builds up as the story continues. Once in Spain, the Posts are met by Franny’s best friend Charles and his husband, Lawrence. Franny and Charles let their friendship interfere with their relationships. Franny escapes, speaking to her husband through Charles, and Charles, although he does not mean to, ignores Lawrence, which causes jealousy within the group.
However, Lawrence and Charles are soon brought back together when they receive the news that they could possibly be parents. After being on a list at an adoption agency for years, a soon-to-be mother put the couple on her list. This leaves Lawrence and Charles anxious and questioning whether their two-week stay in Spain was a wise decision.
Then there is Sylvia, whose main goal is to lose her virginity before she leaves for college—that’s where Joan, the Spanish tutor, comes in. Sylvia tries to act like dark hair, brown eyes, tan skin and muscles do not faze her, but one trip to the beach changes her mind. Even though Sylvia does not mature during the trip (I was really hoping she would), her sarcastic and sometimes grouchy attitude grows on you.
This book is all about overcoming the struggles of a relationship. Whether it is between a husband and his wife, a girl and her tutor, two husbands or between friends, there is always something that can go wrong. But there is a way to fix those problems if the people involved are willing.
Even though everyone on the trip experiences trouble and doubt, I found Franny and Jim’s relationship to be the hardest to fix. They have been together since their early twenties and have two kids and a house in New York. But then one of them strays.
As Straub writes of the couple:
“Franny’s parents had been married for a hundred years, and she doubted that either of them had ever strayed, but what did she know? What did anyone know about anyone else, including the person they were married to? There were secret parts of every union, locked doors hidden behind dusty heavy drapes.”