Meg Mitchell Moore puts together a great story in Vacationland, but her ending left me nauseated, and not in a good way.
There are many things to like in this book, but you can easily another beach read that is just as enjoyable and a lot more realistic. Don’t waste your precious vacation time.
Basic Math in Vacationland
My first thought was that Moore panders to every single stereotype of WASPs in the book (cold, rigid, etc.), but then I realized that the real problem is that the characters’ decision making is based on trite emotional response that don’t even make factual sense.
Two primary characters in the book face financial issues: Kristie struggles with paying her late mother’s hospital bills, and Louisa wants to save her family’s summer home. Kristie has no money and works as a waitress.
Louisa and her husband have $150,000 in their “emergency fund”. Louisa and her husband raise three kids in Brooklyn on a college professor’s salary while he tries to get a podcasting start up off the ground. At one point, he wants to invest their nest egg in his venture. While Louisa intelligently nixes THAT idea, she wants to spend the money to “save” the beach house.
Her mom wants to sell the Maine property to pay $9000 a month in care costs for her husband.
$150,000 may be enough for a beach house in some parts of the word, but not in Maine. And that’s not enough for $9000 a month care!
I assumed Louisa’s failure to grasp that basic math would eventually be part of the plot. I hope you don’t mind my telling you: it isn’t! Ironically, emotions outweigh any rational reasoning process in this book.
Medical Bills in Vacationland
The biggest tension, however, is the debt Kristie owes for her late mother’s medical bills. Except that, in the U.S., adult children usually do not have to pay their parents’ health care bills.
It’s strange that the hospital would go after Kristie in the first place because they know there are better ways to collect that money than chasing a waitress.
I thought it was strange that a hospital was going after Kristie for the money because I have a good friend in that field, and I’ve heard enough from her over the years to know that a hospital write-off is usually the normal resolution for this situation. Since several characters in the book are connected to the legal field, I thought that helping Kristie figure this out would be part of the resolution.
The U.S. healthcare system has its problems, but there are safeguards in place. Hospitals usually provide medical social workers to help families get the support they need.
No character in this book seems to have any idea how to manage money or how to get information. Instead, emotion drives the decision making. Ironic for a bunch of chilly WASPs, isn’t it?
My idea of family is that you work together to help each other out with whatever you have to offer. This assistance is hardly ever financial…in my family…but we offer up our time and skills to keep each other afloat.
The family in this novel has supposedly made a sacrifice for the greater good, but in reality, they are self absorbed narcissists. I thought they were going to be able to save each other by helping Kristie, but no. They just throw money at their problems…and in idiotic ways.
The saddest thing about this book is that it does address fears that real people have that Moore, through the story, could have helped assuage.