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3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  812 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
Critically acclaimed on its hardcover publication, and praised for its playful inventiveness and delightful prose, Deb Olin Unferth’s debut novel, Vacation, features three characters—a man, his wife, and a stranger with ties to them both. With his wife suspiciously absent in the evenings, the man, Myers, follows his unnamed spouse on her evening escapades and soon realizes ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Grove Press (first published September 4th 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,336)
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Oh stunning, my goodness, what a wonderful, devastating book. I was bewildered and despondent for an entire evening after I finished reading this for the second time in a row (just one of the benefits of being a copyeditor). Much like Arkansas , the last book I read for McSweeney's, at a certain point (this one is clearly marked, by an earthquake), you have a sharp intake of breath because you realize that things are just going to get worse and worse and there's nothing you can do to slow it do ...more
Oct 21, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it
"People do things like this, they do, and if it doesn't make them happy, at least it keeps them alive."

A man, Myers, searches for an old classmate he hasn't seen or talked to in years so that he can kill him.

The two men at the center of this novel aren't remarkable, if anything they are painfully average. They aren't down and out losers, but they are the type of person who has had their life and personality grinded out of them by everyday life. They are faceless people you have to share your pe
MJ Nicholls
What do certain authors have against inverted commas?

"I am speaking now. You know I am speaking because this in inverted commas."

Now you do not know I am speaking unless the author uses a dialogue tag. This technique creates a sense of distance or alienation, juxtaposed with the main text blah blah blah, and on top of this, it's grammatically incorrect.

Some writers are speech mark snubbers. Don't get me wrong. I understand. I side with Vonnegut and find the semicolon hideous. This author also u
Mar 16, 2010 tee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to tee by: Oriana Leckert
Shelves: i-own
I was sufficiently intrigued by this book. It had that little something that kept me turning the pages, it invoked curiosity, it was strange as fuck. It was published by McSweeney's, so I was biased before I even started - the gorgeous hard cover added to the tingling in my pants. It's wide girth, perfect crisp print, pleasing spacing on the sides of the pages; visually, it was stimulating. Once the words travelled through my eyeballs and hit the optic disc, travelled through the optic nerve and ...more
Stephen Theaker
This book is typeset, designed and manufactured with wonderful skill and attention to detail. The paper's so soft you could use it to upgrade your baby's bottom. Holding the book in your hands feels luxurious; reading from it is a privilege.

In comparison, the novel itself was just okay. It's nicely written, if a bit bland. The narration is arch and distanced, which suits the subject matter but becomes a bit dull after a while. It jumps around in time quite a bit, often from one paragraph to the
May 11, 2009 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been with this book now for a long time out of sheer love of it. Every chapter is chopped up into little pieces, and every piece is almost like it's own little story, like Unferth dropped a tiny explorative device into the brain-body of one of her characters for a moment, so the piece is for a snap-shot moment soaking and burbling in there, recording all the stuff of the aching body, the wandering body, the unconscious and the dream images, and also the physical earth and all its sameness/w ...more
Oct 02, 2008 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wallace
Reading this was something of a vacation, indeed. Not the in-Florida-with-the-family-on-the 4th of July-type vacation, but more of a literal vacating. Of my usual, comfortable space. Of the traditional narrative retreat I usually seek. Of the conventional, the simple, the everyday. The intro included with this profile summarizes the plot as clearly as is possible, I suppose. (No easy feat.) So I'll avoid that and simply encourage anyone looking for a new voice, a journey through a strange-yet fa ...more
Patrick Faller
Aug 04, 2009 Patrick Faller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Through this labryinthian narrative moves Myers, a young corporate cog who chases after the man he believes his wife has been following on an errand of her own heart. Myers's journey leads him to Syracuse and then to Nicaragua, where he endures and earthquake, loses his job, and winds up on a boat in the middle of an ocean, part of an entourage accompanying a world-famous dolphin "un-trainer" who has made a career out of freeing captive porpoises used in television and films. Unferth produces se ...more
Ava Butzu
Dec 21, 2012 Ava Butzu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished Unferth’s "Vacation" this morning and can’t help but feel that she pulled a couple of numbers on me. After reading the author interview at the end, I sort of wanted to punch her in the face. It’s true that this book elicits moments of John Cheever (“The Swimmer,” in particular) and of Virginia Woolf and of Samuel Beckett. If you have read “Waiting for Godot?” then you are familiar with the feeling that you are missing something important that Beckett wants us to figure out about our e ...more
Alex V.
I finished this book last week but waited a bit to see what my reaction would be. Like an exotic tea, you have to give books like this time to steep, a moment to cool off before really seeing what it tastes like. Also like exotic teas, it is very easy to get caught up in the packaging - this book, like most McSweeney's books, is gorgeous. The text on the page seems almost embossed on wedding announcement paper tinted the slightest possible shade of green. The sentences and paragraphs laid out in ...more
Sep 04, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Oriana Leckert, Kira Baum
Shelves: good-covers
People do things like this, they do, and if it doesn't make them happy, at least it keeps them alive.
- the wife

This is a novel about following people, none of the followers really having any idea who s/he is following, the followers know that s/he is really following because s/he is lost; it is a novel about leaving, which happens if you follow someone that insistently; and about drowning, drowning with an awareness that you are headed for the bottom, that you will not resurface, yet continuing
Aug 31, 2009 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!! deb! my heart! you have broken it! and yet i am curiously detached from and accepting of my own suffering, having a renewed appreciation for its place on the scale of suffering worldwide. so i resent you for what you have done to me, but my resentment is overshadowed by my gratitude. overshadowed--not eradicated. i will still pinch you in that soft back part of your upper arm if we meet. but i will immediately apologize and hug you, and probably cry a little. and then i'll ...more
Sep 22, 2015 Kaystrand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading the afterward was an important part of this book for me. What a trip...
Nov 08, 2008 kira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oriana recommended this book to me, saying "You think you know what kind of book you're reading, and then it keeps changing into something completely different than you expected." And she's exactly right. I read much of this book on an airplane and while traveling (I figured it was appropriate to read on vacation), so I didn't give it the full attention I would have liked. I'll definitely reread this book. Also -- the package is absolutely lovely -- luscious paper, fancy three-piece paper/cloth ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Jamie marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
DNFed. Got to about 50 pages before the lack of quotation marks started to drive me crazy. After that many pages, I should be able to tell someone during the day what the book I'm reading is about...but I couldn't. Each time I tried to start up again, I'd have to back up a few pages to remember what was going on. Even now writing this, I couldn't tell you what this book was about, that's how forgettable it was for me. "I think there was a character named Matt or Mark, and.....there were no quota ...more
May 22, 2012 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read too many authors who can write with a "stream-of-craziness" style like Deb. Her characters' flaws become endearing and sensible. You want to hug 'em and slap the crap out of 'em. Her settings are mundane and exotic. Life itself becomes a character, waiting around a corner to buy you a cup of coffee or work your ass over with brass knuckles. Fun and freaky, hopelessly hopeful, it makes you examine the familiar strangers who inhabit your daily life. Especially the one in the mirror.
Summer Brennan
Apr 17, 2015 Summer Brennan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an odd, delightful, poignant tumbleweed of a book. A great companion read to Vendela Vida for its sense of unraveling. Absurd in a good way for the most part, I was less drawn in by one of the story elements that was prominent towards the end, but definitely worth it. A book that has stayed with me. (And for anyone who is curious about Unferth, please google her short story about turtles: it is amazing.)
Feb 20, 2009 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I swear I wrote a review for this at the time. Oddball, inevitably tragic (and after finally reading Martin Eden last year, too), and the sort of thing that I accept as well-done but probably just wasn't in the mood for. Though it strikes me now as the sort of thing Wes Anderson lovers would enjoy. Being one of them, I probably should've enjoyed it more.
May 23, 2010 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: former-bees
Okay, seriously I don't get it. Not devastating, just depressing. I hate every character in this book, they're all stupid. It's not remotely funny, even in a sarcastic way. The pacing is quick and interesting, and Unferth is a master with the words. But it was just damn depressing.
Matt Briggs
Confounded by the good reception this book has received. It has a nicely executed numb tone and some very nice sentence fragments placed in good spots. In writing this down now there were some good things, but in general the book felt kind of chilly and addled to me.
This book is worth a read, if only for an unusual view of humanity. Everyone experiences it, but few people write about it successfully: human nature is a strange thing.returnreturnThere are several narratives happening at once, and Ms. Unferth craftily slides back and forth between the three--perhaps four?--stories. I found her writing style mildly tiresome, because of her sometimes awkward blatancy, but I still feel that this book has value as a vignette of the more unusual side of silly human ...more
PANK Magazine
Nov 12, 2008 PANK Magazine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We're such big fans of Unferth here at PANK, we're probably creepy. You must read this book.
Apr 03, 2015 Annett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's kind of fascinating how an interesting idea can lead to such a boring story.
Aug 20, 2009 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was very disjointed and I had a hard time staying interested.
Rozette Rago
Jun 25, 2010 Rozette Rago rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“Between us we had space, silence. We had longing shooting one direction and nothing coming back. His despondency tied me to him. His jagged wanderings. His sad starlight vigils. I gave in to it. I went along.”

How do I even begin? I loved this book so much. So much that it pained me to finish it. I took my time with this because despite how depressing it was, I kind of enjoyed it. Ugh. Let’s get real. I really, really loved it.

Deb Olin Unferth is unlike any other. Her way with words is amazing,
Feb 22, 2009 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm surprised at how much I liked this book; at first I felt like it had a serious case of MFA-itis, and I'd get to the end feeling like I'd wasted my time and gone nowhere, but it's actually a page-turner that I couldn't put down. Yeah, the dialog is a little stilted and lacks quotation marks, it's hard to care about the characters for awhile, and it's got that slightly airless "written for writers" quality that usually turns me off, but this story was going somewhere, quickly, and that hooked ...more
Jun 08, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of Deb Olin Unferth's debut novel, "Vacation," is largely devoted to the dissolution of a marriage between a man named Myers and his nameless wife. Myers' wife begins to spend her evenings following a man named Gray through a somewhat sinister cityscape. Myers follows close behind, unnoticed. Though the plot creates suspense -- Why is Myers' wife following someone who turns out to be her husband's college acquaintance? Will the couple ever reveal their secret followings? -- it is ...more
Laala Alghata
May 16, 2011 Laala Alghata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If you think about it, everyone is behind someone and in front of someone. The nature of the sphere, right? No one gets left at the end or is forced to take the lead, and in this way you might say the shape of the earth is democratic. There are hesitations, of course. There are lines going in ways that you wouldn’t imagine. People are passed up or passed over. The tempo is irregular and messy. If you thought about the entirety of it, the legs, the back and forth, it’s a fiasco, an anarchy of st ...more
Apr 04, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dearest friends -- someone please read this book so I have someone to discuss it with me! Wow.

I really like Deb Olin Unferth's writing -- I find her pace and tone and style is kind of like the way I think (perhaps this is disturbing, because this book is kind of disturbing).

I can't even really begin to describe this book. It's about love and longing and wishing things would be different. It fades and flows in and out of reality. The author makes fun of the reader at certain important moments, wr
Jun 15, 2010 Daveski rated it really liked it
Shelves: 52-in-2010
Despite the title, no one actually goes on a vacation in this book. If you were hoping for a story about a family getaway, or a road trip, you can forget it. In fact, no one in the story really has any fun or does any relaxing - quite the opposite, actually.

Instead, we get a somewhat sad and darkly comic story about following and leaving. A man follows his wife, his wife follows another man, and the first man follows the second man, for starters. In the act of following one thing, something else
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Excerpt and event spotlight: Deb Olin Unferth's VACATION 1 12 Oct 19, 2009 10:10PM  
  • One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box: Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, How the Water Feels to the Fishes, and Minor Robberies
  • Arkansas
  • The Convalescent
  • I.
  • Bowl of Cherries
  • Fever Chart
  • Icelander
  • Here They Come
  • The Pharmacist's Mate
  • Motorman
  • The Avian Gospels, Book I
  • We Take Me Apart
  • The Instructions
  • Wide Eyed
  • Mira Corpora
  • A Child Again
  • Madeleine is Sleeping
  • Farewell Navigator: Stories
American short-story writer and novelist. She is the author of a collection of stories, Minor Robberies, and a novel, Vacation, both published by McSweeney's.

Her stories have appeared in Harper's, Fence, AGNI and other magazines. She is a frequent contributor to Noon. In 2009 she received a Creative Capital Grant from the Warhol Foundation and was also the recipient of the Cabell First Novelist Aw
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“It takes bravery to care for someone — no matter who he is or what made him, whether he is weak or walking or jumping out of windows. The risk involved is enormous.” 7 likes
“Humans, we just hop out of things, off things. We splatter ourselves in inappropriate places. Because we have nothing to live for. Because we want to destroy what we can. Because we want to be something we can’t. Because we don’t really believe we can die.” 7 likes
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