People We Meet on Vacation is a novel about a wanderer and a homebody, and how their friendship changes through a dozen years of summer trips.
Poppy and Alex have been best friends since college, despite being an odd couple pairing. Poppy wears loud clothes and desires adventure, and Alex is a sweet grump who has PTA-dad vibes. Despite their notable differences, they share an intimate friendship, unsullied by romantic intentions – ninety-five percent of the time.
Every summer, Alex and Poppy have taken trips together, at first on a shoestring budget. Then, Poppy is hired by R+R, a travel magazine, and their vacations change. But Poppy knows their friendship never will, and she anticipates every getaway, looking forward to time spent in Alex’s company and the fun they have together. Then something happens. And Poppy and Alex don’t speak for two years.
Burned out and feeling lost, Poppy is caught off guard when a friend asks her when she was last happy. The answer is two years earlier, on her last trip with Alex. She doesn’t know if they can recapture the magic of their friendship, but she’s willing to try. Can one more vacation fix what happened between them, or will her most important relationship remain fractured?
I love, love, love Alex. He’s such a sweetie; kind, generous, and has a huge heart. Following a family tragedy, he had to mature at a young age and be a parental figure to his younger brothers. He’s a teacher, a cat dad, and wants to be husband and father; he feels real, and his actions and feelings feel true to his character at every turn. I would recommend this book for Alex alone! There’s a strong ring of authenticity to Poppy as well – even though at times she can seem like something of a millennial stereotype – and her family and her feelings toward them have a lot of weight and really add to the reader’s understanding of her. In fact, all the characters are incredibly strong, even the ones we meet only briefly. The story lends itself to a large cast, and each voice feels authentic, each character fully-formed. Character relationships are also very well-developed; Poppy and Alex have a really raw, emotional connection. There’s also the fact that the chemistry between them is PALPABLE and very sexy. Their relationship is a tender, aching love that is slowly revealed throughout the story and events from the past, and present.
Though I was initially skeptical about the switching between time periods which forms the novel’s basic structure, it really works for the story and it feels organic to the narrative as it unfolds. It also increases tension for the reader as the history of the characters unwinds and small details come into focus.
The tone of the book took me a little by surprise, as it was quite heavy at times. I kind of expected some light angst, but the book has a really deep emotional core. It still has some wonderfully funny moments, but I was definitely a little taken aback by how intense it is. I also found the pacing to be a little off as the story enters its third act. The resolution doesn’t feel as final as I’d like, either, with some of the roadblocks seemingly remaining unresolved.
People We Meet on Vacation surprised me in a lot of ways, and while I had some issues with it, I would still definitely recommend it. Some of my favorite tropes are at work in this book – opposites attract and friends to lovers, just to name two. It’s a great read, and will definitely satisfy anyone who loves a good getaway.
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