A Summer Vacay Substitute: Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore

When you can’t take a vacation, you can always read about one.

Work schedules, kids’ schedules, little things like pandemics … all stuff that has made it nearly impossible to plan any kind of substantive escape these last couple of years — it’s left me grateful to still enjoy a few days off here and there and the lazy days of summer when it is the very definition of heaven to just curl up with a warm breeze, a cold drink and a book and just veg the hell out.

Meg Mitchell Moore’s “Vacationland” took me straight out to the East coast, where I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few summertime weeks over the years. While I hung out in Massachusetts, Moore takes the McLean clan to the shores of Maine and Owls Head, where one of her main characters, Louisa, grew up in a seaside home called Ships View, the daughter of Annie and Martin — a state supreme court judge.

It’s summer, Louisa is a professor on sabbatical trying to write a book and her husband, Steven, is trying to launch his podcast company off the startup pad to something more financially viable, so why not take the three kids out of the city and her husband’s hair to Maine where surely she’ll find time to write her book?

Of course not.

Whether it’s a father slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, a prepubescent son falling in love for the first time, a bit-too-big-for-her-britches daughter writing Daddy and spilling all the tea or a mysterious half-sister that shows up out of the blue, summer has a way of making you feel like you have, well, all summer to get your to do list done even when your world starts to spin out of control.

I’m a big believer in every book having an audience. Vacationland is, for me, the kind of book that makes for a great weekend read, and one that you could comfortably leave in a beachside Little Free Library for the next sun worshipper to curl up on the sand with. It isn’t difficult to follow, isn’t going to frustrate you (beyond debating with yourself who may or may not be at fault in varying scenarios — I’m looking at you, Louisa) and has a lot to unpack, from faltering marriages and tenuous mother/daughter relationships, to the perils of parenting and struggling with unjustified jealousies.

Mostly, it makes me miss the ocean and seaside towns and ice cream and just the sights, smells and sounds of places like Cape Cod. Someday, I know. In the meantime, more books and more summer weather please. My favorite time of year.

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