Friday, July 22, 2022

Book Review: Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore


 
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books by Author: The Islanders,
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "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."

 

Louisa is on sabbatical from NYU and when she returns, she should have completed her book. Well, she hasn't, her sabbatical is almost over, and her life is now very complicated.  Instead of using her sabbatical as a time to work on her personal career goals, she is, instead, taking on all the duties surrounding her three children and the house, while her husband immerses himself in his new venture, a podcast company.  Because her husband's company is a start-up, he has zero time for his family and the responsibilities fall on Louisa.  So, instead of spending the summer in Brooklyn, she decides to go to her family's vacation home in Maine with the hope that her children will be busy in nature, her mother can help her out, and she can have a reset of sorts. Steven, her husband, is of course staying at home and will come up to visit when he can.  At first glimpse, this is idyllic, right? A gorgeous house in Maine on the water and her family spending time together--what's not to love? Except things aren't great. Her marriage is crumbling and her father, Martin's, dementia is really taking a hold of him, which in turn is causing financial problems, not to mention her book is nowhere near done. Meanwhile there's someone new in town, Kristie, who is hoping to seek out the Fitzgerald family as she has secrets of her own that relate to Martin.  Vacationland is a compelling family drama that at times can be a bit depressing, but overall, its message is one of hope.  

Louisa is struggling when she returns to Maine, for what she hopes will be a break of sorts where she can work on her book and reconnect. She wants the kids to have a summer like she had growing up filled with moments by the water and off screens.  She hopes Steven will come up when he can, but she doesn't necessarily need him there and likes the alone time.  Obviously, their marriage is struggling.  When she gets to Maine, she realizes that her father, Martin, a once chief justice in Maine, is now suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  He has moments where he seems ok, but more often than not, he isn't. This is taking a toll on her mother as they know that he will need round the clock care soon and in turn, this will be a major financial burden to the family.

Louisa's children in Vacationland are also all dealing with their own summer issues. There's Mattie, who is experiencing his first crush, Abigail, who misses her father and writes him daily and lastly, there's Claire, who is only seven, and still needs a lot of guidance.  Some of the chapters are narrated by the kids as well as Pauline, the longtime family housekeeper.  The other chapters are narrated by Louisa and the mystery visitor, Kristie. At times, this felt like too many narrators for my taste.

Kristie is new to town and has a connection to the Fitzgerald family in Vacationland. Her backstory is rather sad as her mother recently died and Kristie finds herself trying to put her life back together and essentially get some closure.  In order to do this, she needs to talk to the Fitzgerald family, but they don't know she exists....or do they? Cue the family drama.

I loved the setting of Maine in Vacationland. Moore did a great job bringing to life the beautiful old home on the bay and the gorgeous setting of coastal Maine.  With the prospect of Louisa's mother having to put out a lot of money for Martin's care, the fate of the family beach house is up in the air. This definitely tugged on my heartstrings.

While I think Vacationland was a solid beach read, it read a bit too melancholy for me to give it four stars. I just felt sad reading it more often than not, although I appreciate the fact that Moore is portraying the heartbreaking condition of Alzheimer's disease and its impact on family. Thankfully by the end of the novel, I was feeling more hopeful and Vacationland's takeaway is more about forgiveness and the importance of family more than anything else.

So, are you a fan of Meg Mitchell Moore? Have you read Vacationland? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

4 comments:

  1. Hey there! This one doesn't look like a beach read for me at all, lol. It sounds kinda sad so I think I'll pass. Thanks for reviewing it! ♥

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  2. I agree, this does sound a bit melancholy, so maybe not the perfect summer read, but it does sound like a good family drama.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, you have to really enjoy family dramas to appreciate this one. Thanks for visiting, Angela!

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