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The Vacationers Reader’s Guide

By Emma Straub

The Vacationers by Emma Straub


Questions and Topics for Discussion


For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.


Emma Straub is from New York City. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published by Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, Time, Slate, and The New York Times, and she is a staff writer for Rookie. Straub lives with her husband in Brooklyn, where she also works as a bookseller.

  • Franny and Charles have been friends for a long time. How does their close relationship affect other people on vacation with them?

  • From the outset, the Posts aren’t too fond of Carmen. Do you think she is treated fairly or unfairly by her boyfriend’s family?

  • How does Bobby and Sylvia’s relationship as adult siblings evolve over the course of the novel?

  • At the start of The Vacationers, Jim and Franny’s relationship is on the rocks, and it later comes dangerously close to falling apart. Is it possible to rebuild trust once it’s been lost?

  • This is a story about what we try to conceal from others, even from those closest to us, sometimes even from ourselves-and what we choose to show them instead. Have you ever felt like you’ve had to put on a good face for others?

  • What was the last vacation that you went on, and who did you go with? Did it give you a different perspective on your day-to-day life at home?

  • Do you think Bobby handled his financial difficulties the right way? Should he have kept these problems to himself or come clean to his family sooner?

  • The infidelity in Charles and Lawrence’s relationship is dealt with in a way that markedly contrasts with the other instances in The Vacationers. Does infidelity always have to be a big deal in a relationship?
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