05 September 2014


Going on vacation with other people's dysfunctional families isn't always that fun, but I'll make an exception for the Posts and co. of THE VACATIONERS, who pack all their secrets and quiet disappointments with each other off to Mallorca for two weeks. Manhattanites Jim and Franny Post are off for sun and fun with son Bobby (a not-very-successful real-estate broker in Miami), daughter Sylvia (about to head off to college), Bobby's girlfriend Carmen, plus Franny's best friend Charles and his husband Lawrence. What none of the other guests know is that Franny is using this trip to decide whether she and Jim should divorce after Jim strayed, an act of infidelity that already cost him his job.

You already know that the vacationers of THE VACATIONERS are eventually going to find the house too small, the walls too thin, and their family ties too itchy and constraining. For the most part, the reader of THE VACATIONERS feels none of these things, and can even enjoy the Spanish setting in moments when the family can't. (A private pool and the beach? Send me away!) One of the most nuanced relationships I found in here was between Franny and Charles -- it's rare, in a way, that you see that kind of friendship between older people in fiction, while the woman-and-her-gay-best-friend dynamic is all over millennial pop culture). And then there's Sylvia and her image of herself in that pivotal moment between high school and college. She could so easily have been a dumb cliche but I found her fascinating.

If I had any complaints (and alas, I always have one) I had trouble getting a handle on Franny Post, the matriarch who pushed this trip into being. She's in the book plenty, but I lacked a sense of her inner life that I got from even brief sketches of the other characters. (I think Carmen's sections are my favorite. Poor Carmen.) Perhaps I had trouble understanding why she chose to go through with the vacation in the first place, given the currents of familial strife underlining it.

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