E-readers and smartphones have made the dilemma of whether or not to bring a book (or several of them) on a cruise a no-brainer. We can now bring books on our travels without adding much heft to our carryons or suitcases. But choosing the right book for the trip, whether fiction or nonfiction, can add another rich layer of pleasure to any voyage.
On cruise ships, they offer the opportunity to find a quiet time and space (perhaps, on a deck or in a cabin) to read and relax as ocean waves lap against the hull.
A perfect ‘cruise read’
The Floating Feldmans (Berkley, July 2019), a new novel by Elyssa Friedman, is the perfect ‘cruise read.’ Set on a mega-cruise ship, the fictitious Ocean Queen, the novel captures many of the recognizable elements of mass-market cruising with humor and whimsy.
It weaves a tale of a dysfunctional multigenerational family, the Feldmans, who gather together from both coasts to embark on a Caribbean cruise celebrating the matriarch’s 70th birthday. In doing so, it vividly portrays (and accentuates) some of the foibles common to many families who find themselves awkwardly thrown together on vacations, family reunions or other celebratory occasions. You may even recognize some of the characters’ quirky personality traits in your own relationships.
Like the best of “beach reads,” this ‘cruise read’ is fun and engaging. It’s eminently readable with digestible chapters that are easy to pick up where you left off—so you don’t miss out on any of the fun of cruising, on the ship or ashore.
Talking with Elyssa Friedman, author of The Floating Feldmans
We asked the author some questions about her own travel experiences and how they helped lay the foundation for her book:
Why did you use a cruise ship as the setting to explore family dynamics?
I knew I wanted to observe a family traveling together because I love the idea of forced fun and quality time. More often than not, when that’s the stated goal, it ends up being much more of a trip than a vacation.
The cruise ship was the perfect setting because it trapped the Feldman family. No matter what fights broke out, they were stuck. Many people feel trapped by their families in the metaphorical sense. In The Floating Feldmans, I was making it literal.
A cruise was also a tempting setting because these ships offer so much over the top entertainment and food, making excellent fodder for vivid descriptions.
How did that choice enable the humor sprinkled throughout?
There is definitely something naturally funny about thousands of people lining up at a buffet, pushing past each other to get to the smoked salmon and bacon. Or at least I think so! I think the excess of cruising is comical. Until I’d been on a cruise, I’d never seen people get quite so worked up over cash Bingo and so passionately invested in a karaoke competition. Cruises are also divisive – you love ’em or hate ’em, and the lively debate was fun to tackle.
What types of personal cruising experiences did you draw upon?
To do research for the book, I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Bermuda with my husband and three small children. I was super excited to drop the kids in camp together, only to discover that they weren’t allowed into the same camp because of their ages. That was the end of that and the five of us were together for the trip all day and night.
We did have a blast, rock climbing, using the iFly simulator, dancing, going to shows and driving the bumper cars. But for two days there was such a severe storm that most of the activities on board were canceled. That really tested our ability to exist together in close quarters. I’m proud to say we survived!
What are some of the upsides/downsides of multigenerational family travel on a cruise ship and/or in general)?
I think the obvious downside of multigenerational travel is that the generations move at different paces and have different interests. But that’s why a cruise is perfect because there is literally something for everyone. Mealtimes are the perfect place to reconnect and swap stories after everyone has gone off to do their own thing.
What advice might you offer to someone planning a family reunion? Is there any way to avoid the landmines?
My best advice is to be relaxed about what everyone is doing. People have different ways of enjoying vacations. Some like to wake early and do a ton of activities, others are happy to laze the day away. Forcing everyone to adjust to the way you like to travel is a recipe for disaster.
What are some of your favorite destinations/travel experiences?
The best trip I’ve ever taken was my honeymoon to South Africa. We spent a few days in Capetown, which is just gorgeous, and then a night in wine country, and then ended with the best crescendo of all – a safari! I loved every second of that trip.
Our family really enjoyed Mayakoba in Mexico. I also took my kids to Paris and London when they were very little and it was amazing to experience these awesome cities through their eyes.
About the author
Elyssa Friedland attended Yale University, where she served as managing editor of the Yale Daily News. She is a graduate of Columbia Law School and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm. Prior to law school, Elyssa wrote for several publications, including Modern Bride, New York magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, CBS MarketWatch.com, Yale Alumni Magazine, and Your Prom.
The Floating Feldmans GIveaway
- The publisher has graciously agreed to give one randomly selected reader a copy of The Floating Feldmans, either electronic or hard copy.
- To enter, simply leave a brief comment below on or before midnight, December 1, 2019, telling why you would like to read this book.
- One winner will be chosen and announced here shortly thereafter.
Listen to a sample of the book here:
Available for sale on Amazon:
Disclosure: We received a complimentary copy of The Floating Feldmans for review and make a small commission on any Amazon links in this post.