“Vacationland” by Meg Mitchell Moore (William Morrow)
Don’t read this the wrong way, but there is a Lifetime movie on the “Vacationland” page. There’s a college professor from Brooklyn who’s married, three precocious kids, a gorgeous summer home on the coast of Maine, even a dog named Otis. Throw in an unhappy love child, a patriarch with Alzheimer’s, and a first kiss for one of three kids, and the recipe is a summer read.
Meg Michelle Moore’s writing style reflects that air. The sentences are simple and to the point. Here’s a sweet baby girl named Christie, who has moved to town after her mother’s death, to meet the father she never knew: “She’s working as hard as Archer, and the tips are good, but She’s not sure how she’ll ever get ahead. She doesn’t understand how to move forward with someone who hasn’t even started.”
Christie’s various interactions with the family drive much of the plot. She’s not sure what she’s looking for in Maine, but she credits her late mother for at least meeting the man who chose to be raised by a single mother in rural Pennsylvania while she climbed the career ladder. Climbed, retired as chief justice on the Maine Supreme Court.
Christie’s half-sister, Louisa, knows nothing about it when summer begins. She spends June, July, and August at her family home on Penobscot Bay in Owls Head, Maine, ostensibly to write a book, but is actually trying to navigate her own mid-life crisis. . Her husband, Steven, stayed home to try to get his podcast network off the ground. They occasionally talk on the phone, usually misunderstanding what the other is trying to say. True insight comes from excerpts from the letter Moore has written to her father by pre-teen daughter Abigail, who keeps her up to date on what’s happening over the summer in Maine: “Dear Daddy,” begins one. “I have really big news. We have a new aunt! She’s a secret aunt that mom didn’t even know she had a half-sister. I didn’t know you could get a new aunt my age It’s… it’s more exciting than Sabrina’s trip to Italy or Shelby’s father’s new Tesla.”
And this goes on, until a climax family dinner takes place when everything is exposed and the drama is neatly wrapped up. If you’re the kind of reader who puts down the remote when watching the latest Lifetime movie on TV, you’ll love this. Or if reading on the beach is in your vacation plans, give it a shot. It’s an acquired taste, but not at all unpleasant. Not every book is necessarily very important. Sometimes being satisfied is enough.