The Vacation by John Marrs is a difficult book to write about. It’s certainly an addictive read as I was desperate to see how it ended – or more accurately – how our characters all fared.
In some ways it’s a bit like a Woody Allen-esque movie featuring a series of vignettes with an array of characters, all with their own stories that come together in some unbelievably coincidental way at the end.The Vacation
by John Marrs
Published by Macmillan
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A Paradise on earth.
Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.
But for eight strangers at the beachfront hostel, there is far more on their minds than an extended vacation.
All of them are running away from something.
And they all have secrets they'd kill to keep....
Normally I’d struggle with the coincidences we discover between our characters. And perhaps mentioning that there ARE links is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s hard not to because that’s very much the whole point of this book; as well as its strength and weakness. Here however, [the aforementioned coincides] work. Mostly.
I suspect my mother will hate this as there are a lot of characters all with backstories and baggage and she’ll struggle to remember who’s who. The set-up is a little slow and it takes a long time to introduce the cast of characters. We then continue to move between them as well as back in time as Marrs shares events leading to their motivation to travel or how they end up at the (dodgy) Venice Beach International Hostel.
I found it a little disconcerting that some of the timeframe changes occurred mid chapter which I wasn’t used to experiencing. Similarly on a few occasions there was some head hopping. We were in the head of one character and then privy to another’s thoughts, though thankfully for the most part it’s clear.
This book is all about the characters and their lives. Some are extraordinary and some seemingly ordinary. All have secrets they’re keeping from others and some they’re keeping from themselves.
The book was previously released as Welcome to Wherever You Are – a sign the owner of the hostel has displayed at reception and Marrs references a Aldous Huxley quote:
Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves.
So (in some ways) there is a deeper theme on offer (in addition to the whole twist of fate thing), akin to the Wizard of Oz’s ‘You’ve had the power all along.’
I would actually love to see this on the screen and I know that one of Marrs’s previous books The One was made into a Netflix series. In fact I can’t help but wonder if this book would fare better with episodic fast-paced visual treatment than it does in written form.
I found this book – at various times – to be annoying, obvious, frustrating and alluring. And weirdly I’d recommend it for all of those reasons.
The Vacation by John Marrs was re-published by Pan Macmillan in late 2021 and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.