Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore
Published: June 14th 2022 by William Morrow & Company
Rating: ★★★★ (4)
Genre: Adult // Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Quick Thoughts: A delightful, yet deep novel exploring the beauty of Maine and the fragility of family—and how desperately we try to keep it from breaking at the seams.
About The Book:
Louisa has come to her parents’ house in Maine this summer with all three of her kids, a barely written book, and a trunkful of resentment. Left behind in Brooklyn is her husband, who has promised that after this final round of fundraising at his startup he will once again pick up his share of the household responsibilities. Louisa is hoping that the crisp breeze off Penobscot Bay will blow away the irritation she is feeling with her life choices and replace it with enthusiasm for both her family and her work.
But all isn’t well in Maine. Louisa’s father, a retired judge and pillar of the community, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Louisa’s mother is alternately pretending everything is fine and not pretending at all. And one of Louisa’s children happens upon a very confusing and heartfelt letter referring to something Louisa doesn’t think her father could possibly have done.
Louisa’s not the only one searching for something in Maine this summer. Kristie took the Greyhound bus from Pennsylvania with one small suitcase, $761, and a lot of baggage. She’s got a past she’s trying to outrun, a secret she’s trying to unpack, and a new boyfriend who’s so impossibly kind she can’t figure out what she did to deserve him. But she can’t keep her various lives from colliding forever.
As June turns to July turns to August, secrets will be unearthed, betrayals will come to light, and both Louisa and Kristie will ask themselves what they are owed and what they owe others.
I first heard about Vacationland through my search for vacation-type reads in early spring. I love books set in Maine as a general fan of New England, and I’ve missed reading the Contemporary Adult genre, which I don’t read too much of at the moment as a YA/NA reader, so this came along at the perfect time.
The novel is told through a couple eyes, one of which being Louisa. She’s gone to stay at her parents house in Maine for the summer with her three kids, leaving her husband behind in Brooklyn. She’s brought a lot of baggage, metaphorically, and despite maybe seeming like she has it all under control, she’s got a lot of frustrations about her husband’s lack of help at the moment. She’s desperately wishing for the small Maine-based town to refresh her from things weighing her down and get her back on track. But life isn’t going to be that simple. Her father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and her mother is pretending about, well, everything. It’s not exactly what Louisa needs, either, when one of her kids finds a very perplexing letter—one that leaves Louisa wondering what on Earth her father could have done.
Kristie is another one of the voices we hear, and happens to be my favourite character. She’s also wanting to have a re-fresh, but hers is more of a complete fresh start. She has a past she wants to forget about and more things than she can think about that she’d prefer to outrun. She’s come from Pennsylvania all the way to Maine with not much to her name or life, just trying to get by and move through her grief. And as Kristie and Louisa go through months, secrets and breakthroughs that rock their worlds, it’s not a matter of how they will get to where they want to be: it’s if their family—or personal—secrets will let them.
Overall, Vacationland was one of those books that comes along at the right time and fits in perfectly. I can’t remember the last time I read a whole book in a day, and this beauty managed to break the curse. I thoroughly loved reading the well-crafted world Meg had written, about imperfect families, illness, grief, happiness—and all the in-between. Even though at times it was predictable, it left such a lasting impression on me. It’s pretty much a delightful, yet deep novel exploring the beauty of Maine and the fragility of family—and how desperately we try to keep it from breaking at the seams. Four stars!
Meg Mitchell Moore's fifth novel, The Islanders, will be published by William Morrow in June 2019 and is a July Indie Next Pick. She lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband and their three teenaged and almost-teenaged daughters. Find out more on Facebook.