The best books about vacations gone awry
When getting away from it all goes all wrong
In life, vacation is the perfect time to kick back, relax, and unwind. In literature, it’s often the time for murder, mayhem, and life-changing family drama. Read on for some of our favorite books where a getaway doesn’t go quite as planned.
The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
When the Posts take a two-week trip to the Balearic Island of Mallorca, they expect to unwind and celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary and the high school graduation of their daughter, Sylvia. Instead, new secrets and old wounds follow them from Manhattan and come to light on their vacation. Order a copy here.
The Red House, by Mark Haddon
When Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her clan to join for a week at his vacation home in the English countryside, long-held resentments come to a boil as both families are forced together in close quarters. Order a copy here.
The Past, by Tessa Hadley
The Cranes’ traditional family vacation to their grandfather’s rectory is reborn when the siblings have to decide what to do with the dilapidated building. As the title suggests, the past of their upbringing catches up with them on their final getaway. Order a copy here.
Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead
Daughter Daphne’s wedding is the excuse for the Van Meter family to get away in Seating Arrangements. For patriarch Winn Van Meter, the weekend is a minefield of family drama and bridal party entanglements that threaten to send the destination wedding off the rails. Order a copy here.
Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Kelleher family comes together summer after summer at their beach house in Maine. And when three generations of Kelleher women spend the summer together, their personal problems and relationships with one another intersect. Order a copy here.
Trouble, by Kate Christensen
Old friends Josie and Raquel lead very different lives: Josie as a comfortably married psychotherapist in Manhattan, Raquel as a famous rock star in Los Angeles. When both suffer unexpected setbacks, the pair escape together to Mexico City, where their limits and their bond will be tested. Order a copy here.
Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy
A holiday cruise goes terribly awry for two families after leaving the comfort of the ship to go ashore in Central America. Told from the perspective of both parents and their children, from whom they become separated, Do Not Become Alarmed is the story of a vacation that quickly becomes a crisis. Order a copy here.
The Harder They Come, by T.C. Boyle
The Harder They Come alternates perspectives between Vietnam vet Sten Stenson, his schizophrenic son Adam, and Adam’s girlfriend Sara. The action unfolds from Sten’s vacation to Costa Rica, where things quickly take a deadly turn. Order a copy here.
The Beach, by Alex Garland
Adapted into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, The Beach marked the first novel by Annihilation writer-director Alex Garland. It tells the story of Richard, a young man given the location of a mysterious and legendary destination for young travelers in Bangkok. When Richard reaches the lush beach community, however, the utopian exterior hides a sinister reality. Order a copy here.
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
The first novel in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series introduces Tom Ripley, a small-time con man in New York who’s given the opportunity to travel to Italy and ingratiates himself to the wealthy Dickie Greenleaf. As Ripley and Greenleaf (played on film by Matt Damon and Jude Law) become close, Tom’s coveting of Dickie’s lifestyle promises to change both their lives forever. Order a copy here.