People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»“Um.” I try to think of how to explain it. Years of undying love, occasional jealousy, missed opportunities, bad timing, other relationships, building sexual tension, a fight and the silence afterward, and the pain of living life without him. “Our Airbnb’s air-conditioning broke.”«

Now, this was interesting. I had deliberately aimed low – I’m on holidays; in, at and around my pool. It’s 31°C (roughly 88°F) and I wanted a nice fluffy romance and, yes, I got it. The quotation at the beginning (in which Poppy, our heroine, explains how the happily-ever-after began) pretty much perfectly sums up this nice little romance.

»“Ready,” I confirm, and Alex Nilsen sweeps me up into his arms and carries me down a motherfucking mountain. No. I really could not have invented him.«

If it had just been that, I’d have been satisfied: I smiled at the amusing banter, the interludes of Poppy’s and Alex’ ten years of holidays were nice – it was an allround feel-good book at this point. For the absence of any smut I’d have subtracted a star and that would have been the end of it.

Emily Henry, whose oeuvre I first sampled last year, reading “Beach Read” (and having felt underwhelmed by it), surprised me, though, by writing a travel-romance that actually celebrates home.

Not “home” as in our birthplace; not “home” as in the place we live in or some region we’re from (although all of those have their merits). Ferdinand von Schirach, a German lawyer (of all people!), wrote in his glorious “Kaffee und Zigaretten” »Heimat ist kein Ort, es ist unsere Erinnerung.« (“Home is not a place, it’s our memories.”).

Henry basically builds upon this idea: Both Poppy and Alex have known each other for more than a decade, have gone on holidays together for ten years and made the corresponding memories of and with each other. These memories also feel plausible because they’re rarely the huge, momentous ones but mostly comprise the little things, e. g. a tipsy mistake like “too many wine”.

They have fallen hard for each other during this time and are afraid of that, of the “what-ifs”. They found “home” in each other but shied away from it.

I was once on a short visit to a Dutch woman. She invited me to her house and, well, I somehow felt like I had… arrived. I was at home.
It’s now twenty-two years later and I’m still at home. With her. Our adult children are out partying (vaccinated and all around responsibly) and hopefully finding home (this time the one we live in!).

So this book kind-of hit close-to-home (sorry, couldn’t resist!) and while light and fluffy, it has a slightly more nuanced undercurrent and I like it a lot for that.

Emily Henry says it best in the “Behind the book” part at the end:

»This is, ultimately, a book about home. […] I hope this book carries you somewhere magical. I hope it lets you feel ocean breezes in your hair and smell spilled beer on a karaoke bar’s floor. And then I hope it brings you back. That it brings you home, and fills you with ferocious gratitude for the people you love. Because, really, it’s less about the places we go than the people we meet along the way. But most of all, it’s about the ones who stay, who become home.«

It did for me.

Unexpected five out of five stars.

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