In my recent Summer Reading List, I included The Vacationers by Emma Straub. Now that I’ve finished it, I wanted to share some of my thoughts. I normally don’t write book review posts, but I figured I’d try something new today.
Since this is a different type of blog post for me, make sure to let me know what you think, too! I may make it a recurring series.
Spoilers for ‘The Vacationers’
Alright, now that I’ve given you my overall opinion for The Vacationers, I’ll get into some specifics. For those of you who don’t want any spoilers, skip this part!
Loved: Carmen, Charles, and Lawrence
One of the most frustrating things for me about this book was the fact that the characters I did like were given smaller roles.
First, there was Carmen, Bobby’s girlfriend and my favorite of the bunch. She was open and supportive, especially when she tried to talk to Jim about his affair. The author made it seem like an odd thing for her to do, but I thought it showed depth.
Then, there were Charles and Lawrence, a gay couple in the process of trying to adopt a baby. Charles was Franny’s best friend and seemed incredibly supportive of her. Lawrence resented their friendship somewhat, but he did try to be understanding.
These characters weren’t perfect by any means, but I found them more interesting and relatable. I also thought they seemed like decent people and I wished their stories were explored further.
Hated: Almost Everyone Else
Oh boy, where do I even start?
Franny, the mother, was by far the absolute worst. For one thing, she was incredibly dismissive of Carmen despite how nice Carmen was to everyone. (She’s the only one who offers to help Franny clean after meals, too, which I found telling.) Also, she was constantly bad-mouthing the woman whose house they were staying at based on what seemed like outright jealousy.
OK, I changed my mind. Bobby was the actual worst. He was lying to his parents about his successful real-estate business in Miami, letting his family treat Carmen terribly, and worse, cheating on her.
Sylvia was alright at first, but she was also rude and snobby to so many people that I started to find her unbearable. And as for Jim, he wasn’t terrible until he started stalking Franny due to his own irrational jealousy.
Loved: The Depiction of Infidelity
Infidelity was one of the major themes in this book and I liked that it was depicted realistically.
Jim’s affair has left Franny conflicted; at times, she wants to forgive him but at other times, she has a hard time letting go of her jealousy. Jim also has some confusion—the memory of his affair is both shameful and exciting to him. I found both of their reactions extremely relatable.
Then, there was Bobby. As much as I hated him, his cheating was depicted in a realistic way.
Hated: The Cliche and Unrealistic Parts
Ah, the cheating with a younger woman cliche. And what bothered me more was the fact that Jim’s company fired him over an affair with his 23-year old assistant. Their reaction made no sense to me.
Loved: Sylvia’s Realistic Summer Fling
Sylvia wants to lose her virginity and vows to do so with her hot Spanish tutor, Joan. Afterwards, he practically ghosts her. As terrible as that was, I liked that they didn’t get a happy ending.
Hated: The Family’s Treatment of Carmen
It was unclear why the Post family hated Carmen so much. Part of it was due to the fact that she was 10 years older than Bobby (and therefore, less fertile). And it seemed like another part of it was due to the fact that, as a personal trainer, she was seen as less sophisticated. Regardless, I hated how rude they were to her.
Loved: Carmen Standing up for Herself
At the end, Carmen realizes that not only is Bobby terrible, he’s wasting her time, and she breaks up with him. This comes after she exposes his lies to his family. Yesss queen!
I did have this book on my TBR at one time and so I appreciated reading your thoughts on it Katie. I know what you mean about disliking a character that isn’t intended by the author to be disliked. Thanks for sharing your review.
I’d be curious to know your thoughts if you end up reading it!
I love your honesty! It’s hard to read a book where most of the characters are unlikeable – especially unintentionally.
I agree! Sometimes unlikeable characters make for a good book, but that depends on the authors intentions too.
I hate when I find a character or characters annoying – it spoils the story for me ( especially when it’s not the writer’s intention). Love the cover of this one though!
I did still enjoy reading it, but yeah, most of the characters I absolutely hated.