About halfway through Emma Straub’s The Vacationers. I realized I was reading the literary equivalent of one of those ensemble-cast family dramedies that come out every so often. I’m thinking ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ or ‘Parenthood.’ I even started casting the book:
Dianne Weist is the urbane, yet wacky matriarch.
Jeff Daniels is her unfaithful, yet regretful husband.
Adam Driver is the lunk-headed son.
Taissa Farmiga is the cynical daughter, aiming to lose her virginity.
Derek Jacobi is one of the gay best-friends.
And so on and so on.
The basic gist of the story: The Posts are an upper-class, high-brow family from Manhattan who have some fairly big issues. They take a trip to the Spanish island of Mallorca. And over the course of the two week trip (and 320 pages) these issues are sorted out—to varying degrees of satisfaction.
Despite some fairly risqué passages, for the most part I thought this book was fairly safe. I thought the older couples’ storylines (Mom & Dad and the 2 GBFs) were a little too saccharine for my tastes.
The younger Posts’ stories were more unpredictable and complex, and I thought Straub did a good job of encapsulating some of the ennui that affects today’s younger generations, Millennials and post-Millennials.
Straub isn’t afraid to portray her Manhattanite protagonists in a less-than-flattering light. If you don’t like characters who are unabashedly self-centered or snobbish, this probably isn’t the book for you. Personally, those are some of my favorite types of characters. And there are several genuinely funny moments. If family dramedies are your thing, I’d say give it a try.