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In Emma Straub’s “The Vacationers,” the Post family is off to Mallorca to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary and their youngest daughter’s graduation from high school.
At least they intended to. Things have changed since the plans were made: Jim was caught having an affair with an office intern and has been fired from the New York magazine where he has worked for most of his life. Franny is barely speaking to him.
Daughter Sylvia is aware that something is wrong, but is caught up in her own angst; she hates everyone in her high school and just wants to go away and start over. Bobby, their son who has been living in Miami, is bringing to Mallorca his girlfriend of six years, Carmen, a body trainer. She is nice enough, Franny and Jim feel, but she is so much older than Bobby that they cannot see the relationship going anywhere. Franny’s best friend, Charles, an artist, and his husband are also coming.
These seven people will be vacationing, secluded on a beautiful island, in a friend’s villa, all together in one house.
There is turmoil, of course, and humor. Many layers of secrets are gently pulled to the light during the course of the less-than-idyllic vacation. While no one is perfect, each realizes, in the end they are still a family. And family, they realize, is what matters: They support each other. As Jim tries to tell his son, Bobby, “they could go without speaking for decades” and Jim would still love him. A parent, he says, just does not give up on a child. And as the author writes, “Families [are] nothing more than hope cast out in a wide net, everyone wanting only the best.”