Emma Straub’s Fantasy Literary Vacation

straub cover

You know the summertime dilemma: Sometimes you’re in the mood to wiggle your toes into the sand and enjoy a fun story – nothing too dark and heavy — but you’re not willing to waste your time on a book that’s so silly you’ll just want to fling it into the ocean later. Is it too much to ask for a beach read to deliver multi-dimensional characters, a zippy plot, snappy dialogue you can’t help but read aloud to the person in the lounge chair next to you, and solid writing?

Nope. Not every summer reading pleasure has to be a guilty one. Case in point – Emma Straub’s The Vacationers.

the vacationersWhat it’s about: A Manhattan family and a few of their friends decide to ditch the tensions of their everyday lives for a two-week stay on the island of Mallorca. The story has everything a great summer read requires (I feel like Stefon on Saturday Night Live, “This club has everything…”): secret rendezvous, simmering hostilities, and a boatload of baggage; a teen coming of age and adults coming to grips with aging; surprises, disappointments, breakups, and make-ups. Nothing goes quite as planned, which is always fun (on other people’s vacations).

Speaking of other people’s vacations . . . When I met Straub a few months ago — along with her husband and their adorable son in his tiny hipster-baby hat — I knew I’d found an author who wouldn’t be afraid to get a little goofy with us. And thus we present this spin on the old question, “If you could invite any authors, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would they be?”

With thanks to Emma Straub for taking the shame out of beach reading this summer,

– Mary Laura Philpott
Editor of Musing


Emma Straub’s Imaginary Island Getaway

emma's imagination
Emma Straub, on a research trip to Mallorca, pregnant with both her son and her third book, possibly dreaming of playing cards with Jane Austen and having Colson Whitehead make her dinner.

If you could take up to 10 other authors, living or dead, on vacation with you, who’d be invited, and why?

ES: I’m having so much fun already. I think I’d take Elizabeth Gilbert, not only because she’s very game and friendly and seems like she could talk to a brick wall for 10 hours, but also because I know she travels like crazy and could probably tell me which indigenous plants were delicious. I’d take Jane Austen, because I think she’d be an excellent gossip as soon as anyone left the room. I’d take the Mitford sisters, all of them, even Unity. How about Colson Whitehead? He could teach us all how to play poker! That would be very handy. I feel like I should maybe have more dead people.

Where would you go?

ES: I’m picturing a large villa near a beach. Perhaps on an island. There are probably palm trees.

Awesome. How long would you stay?

ES: Oh, at least a month.

Who’s probably going to bring the biggest suitcase?

ES: Me, I’m afraid. One of my biggest problems is packing clothes that I won’t wear. I just spent four months in Nashville (as you know!), and when I packed up to return to New York, I was horrified to see how many pairs of shoes I’d brought and not worn.

Who’s in charge of the map?

ES: Elizabeth Gilbert, for sure. Even if she gets us all lost, who cares? I could listen to her TED talk all day, so I’d just close my eyes and go along for the ride.

What’s for dinner the first night? Is someone cooking? Or is this an evening out?

ES: I follow Colson’s wife on Instagram, and he seems to be an excellent chef, so I’m putting him on dinner duty. The Mitfords would obviously be total disasters in the kitchen. Jane Austen could probably make a meringue of some kind.

Oh, you know she’d bring some fancy confection. OK, what activities are planned for daytime?

ES: Well, the aforementioned poker. I bet Jane would know some killer card games too. I’m really most interested in eating and napping, though. Swimming in a pool. That’s my biggest activity.

Let’s say the vacation house has one really great bedroom — huge windows, whirlpool tub, etc. — who gets it?

ES: The Mitfords, bless them, would most likely assume it was theirs, and I wouldn’t want to argue.

And who gets the crummy little room at the back of the house with the broken closet door and the rickety twin beds?

ES: Me. Those other people are famous and important and I would be psyched to have the broken closet door. My husband might object, but hey, what can you do?

Last question: You have to share a bathroom with one of your fellow vacationers. Who will it be?

ES: I can imagine Liz Gilbert taking a long bath every night, so maybe Jane? I pick Jane.

I totally want to stow away on this imaginary vacation. Thank you!

ES: Thank you. This is so much fun.

Emma Straub joins Parnassus Books on Thursday, June 26, at 6:30 PM for a signing and discussion of The Vacationers. This event is free and open to the public.

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Pack your beach bag:

The Vacationers (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781594631573
Availability: Coming Soon – Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Riverhead Hardcover, 5/2014

ISBN-13: 9781594631825
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Trade, 7/2013

ISBN-13: 9781594486067
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Riverhead Trade, 2/2012

Beautiful Ruins (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780061928178
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial, 4/2013

The Beach (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9781573226523
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Riverhead Trade, 2/1998

A Year in Provence (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780679731146
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Vintage, 6/1991

ISBN-13: 9780307277695
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor, 10/2007

Fodor’s Spain 2014 (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780770432584
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Fodor’s, 12/2013
ISBN-13: 9780385537056
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday, 5/2014

Zone One (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780307455178
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Anchor, 7/2012


ISBN-13: 9780143038412
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books, 2/2007


ISBN-13: 9780451531018
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Signet Classics, 7/2008
ISBN-13: 9780307740816
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage, 8/2010

ISBN-13: 9780307740823
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage, 8/2010