Next to my bed I have the most wonderful pile of books. I can see why people would have Kindles, but for me a huge part of the joy of reading comes from turning the page, smelling the book, seeing how much of the story I have left. A few weeks ago, I realized that I was ‘dipping’, meaning that I was looking at the books, reading a chapter and then flitting over to another title. It wasn’t that any of these books were boring me, but rather that I just didn’t feel quite ready to commit to any of them and that was when I picked up The Vacationers by Emma Straub.
I must admit that I hadn’t heard of Straub before and The Vacationers certainly isn’t great literature but it is good fun. It provides a fabulous three day period of absorption for the reader in the lives of Franny, Jim and Sylvia Post, a family from Manhattan holidaying together on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Whilst Franny and Jim wrestle with marital problems, Sylvia is on the cusp of leaving for college and wanting, desperately, to lose her virginity. Her perma-tanned brother Bobby is along for the ride with his much older girlfriend Carmen, disliked by all, but oddly one of the most likeable characters in the book. Charles and Lawrence, longtime friends of the Post family complete the group, as an ageing gay couple on the cusp of adopting a baby boy.
The Vacationers is all about our need for love and our understanding of our partners and those around us. In an era where monogamous relationships are constantly under fire, believed to be untenable by many, this is a book about finding your way and how only by understanding both ourselves and others will we ever be able to get through. Straub paints an honest picture of what marriage or any long term relationship, including platonic friendship, means and how what constitutes satisfaction changes generation to generation. Certainly we have read about such ideas before, but Straub is clever and as you read her prose, you find yourself questioning your very own ideas of, if not love, then tolerance and forgiveness.
Will this book stay with me for always? Certainly not, but I did have a lovely weekend reading it.