Review: ‘Vacationland’ Offers Family Drama | News, Sports, Jobs

Don’t read this the wrong way, but “Holiday Land” by Meg Mitchell Moore (William Morrow) is a lifetime film on the page. There’s the Brooklyn college professor whose marriage is on the rocks, three precocious children, a gorgeous summer home on the coast of Maine, even a dog named Otis. Add in a grieving love child, a patriarch with Alzheimer’s disease, and a first kiss for one of three children, and the recipe is in for some breezy summer reading.

Meg Mitchell Moore’s writing style reflects this breeze. The sentences are simple and straight to the point. Meet the love child, named Kristie, who moved to town after her mother’s death, to meet the father she never knew: “She works as hard as she can at Archer, and the tips are good, but she doesn’t know how she’ll ever make it. She doesn’t understand how someone moves forward who hasn’t started before.

Kristie’s various interactions with the family are what primarily drive the plot.

She’s not sure exactly what she’s looking for in Maine, but she owes it to her late mother to meet at least the man who chose to let her be raised by a single mother in rural Pennsylvania as he climbed the rungs of his career, retiring as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maine.

Kristie’s sister-in-law, Louisa, knows none of this when summer begins. She spends June, July and August at her family’s home in Owls Head, Maine, on Penobscot Bay, ostensibly to write a book, but really trying to get through her own midlife crisis.

Her husband, Steven, has been staying home trying to get his podcast network off the ground. They talk on the phone from time to time, usually misinterpreting what the other is trying to say. The real information comes from excerpts of a letter that Moore includes, written by preteen daughter Abigail to her father, updating him on what was happening that summer in Maine: “Dear daddy,” start one. “I have very big news. We have a new aunt! It’s a secret aunt that mom didn’t even know she had as a half-sister. I didn’t know you could have a new aunt in my age… It’s much more exciting than Sabrina’s trip to Italy or Shelby’s dad’s new Tesla.

And so on, until a climactic family dinner where everything is on display and the drama is neatly wrapped up. If you’re a reader who puts down the remote when you come across the latest Lifetime movie on TV, you’ll love it. Or if beach readings are part of your vacation plans, give them a try.

It is an acquired taste, but not at all unpleasant. Not all books have to be very important.

Sometimes satisfaction is enough.

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