The Vactioners. It’s a book that’s sat on my night-stand for a solid year untouched with dozens of, “I’ll get to it this weekend,” afterthoughts that never came to fruition. But after cracking it open last month at the beach and then booking a spontaneous flight home (as in 11:00pm on Saturday night), I finished it right before landing in good ole’ Tennessee.
The book follows a dysfunctional family on a trip overseas that – in many respects – I completely related to. I come from a massive family (like My Big Fat Greek Wedding kind except no one has a travel agency…at least that I know of) where traveling is a lot like a moving carnival: insane people in bright clothes, more luggage than you can imagine, and everyone doing whatever the hell they want while the ring leader (in this case my Mother) tries to maintain order.
Straub – the author – fantastically narrates the thirteen day trip as she slowly unmasks the intimate secrets of a family that’s been hit by some pretty big obstacles the largest one being infidelity. There’s definitely some heavy moments, but the characters, scenery, and imagery are so vividly constructed that it’s easy to play out the story in one’s head.
There’s a number of great points to make about the book, but the biggest one is Sylvia – the eighteen year old daughter of the Post family. While young, she’s one of those people who – simply put – is an old soul. She mocks her generation, prefers to be alone, and has some killer one-liners that (on numerous occasions) had me laughing to myself as I sat crammed into seat 3A.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I felt Sylvia was really relatable. Like, “Woah…that was me three years ago.” I never believed in that kind of stuff (always thought it was a bunch of bs), but the book just took on so much more meaning when you can connect the story back to your own experiences, opinions, or character traits. It was weird…but very cool.
I know the book’s gotten great press, but I feel it was vastly under-rated from what I read. Yea it’s “technically” a beach read, but the book has some deeper, subliminal messages that made me walk away feeling as if I learned something.
So while many of our summer vacations are over (I’m in total denial about going back to school), I encourage you to pick up “The Vactioners” by Emma Straub. If nothing else, the book jacket makes for an excellent staged Instagram shoot…#GuiltyAsCharged.