Vacation (Deb Olin Unferth)


My husband gave me Vacation for my birthday this year. He found it through the McSweeney’s website, which predisposed me to like the book. It was, without a doubt, a very unusual read. The prose was elegant and haunting, and even though the protagonist was somewhat difficult to warm to, I found myself engaged in the story before page 10.

That being said, it’s hard to think of exactly what I should say about this book. It’s weird, plain and simple. The characters are weird, the narrative structure is weird (some might say unconventional), and the ending is totally, undeniably weird. Bizarre, even. But also, thought-provoking. And somehow the ending made me like the protagonist more, even though [plot spoiler ahead!!] he dies. Or commits suicide. Or both. Either way, he ends up dead in a move that (a) I was not expecting, and (b) was just about the only way Unferth could have ended the story that wouldn’t have negated everything that came before.

So ultimately, I guess I’d say this was a fascinating read. And compelling — so very curious that it’s difficult to part with.

GOOD FOR:  fans of the less conventional story, people who like to imagine what a complete 180 would look like when performed mid-life, and anyone who wants to go on a little mind-adventure.

BAD FOR:  people who want something light-hearted to read, anyone looking for a sympathetic cast of characters, and those who dislike books where the main character — however prickly — dies at the end.

GOOD WITH:  The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I AmThe Tin Drum, and Troll: A Love Story.

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