Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Vacation” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  712 ratings  ·  135 reviews
"A man follows his wife. The wife follows a stranger. The stranger leaves town and the man goes after him, determined to settle the score. But the man is not the only one looking for the stranger, and the stranger has troubles of his own." The earth quakes, a boy leaps out a window, and a dolphin swims free. Of course people have adventures of this kind - of course! of cou ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published March 3rd 2010 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published September 4th 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Vacation, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Vacation

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,959)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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 dow ...more
"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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Sep 04, 2009 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
PANK Magazine
We're such big fans of Unferth here at PANK, we're probably creepy. You must read this book.
Zet Diaz
“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,
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
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
“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
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
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
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
The Short of It:

Beautiful, rhythmic prose that begs to be read aloud. Vacation is a treat for the brain that’s gone soft (mine).

The Rest of It:

You know how you feel after missing the gym for say a month…or maybe even two months? You feel sort of sloggy and wonky and a bit out of sorts? Well, I’ve been feeling that way lately with my reading. Not saying that I didn’t enjoy the books, quite the opposite, but my brain needed a bit of stimulation. Something different to get the brainwaves firing aga
This book began with such promise. The sentences! Not surprised that Unferth acknowledges Gary Lutz and Diane Williams in the back of the book--she, like they, know well how to give birth to sentences that require re-reading and re-savoring, sentences that are new to the world, never before seen. Unfortunately, the book doesn't seem to add up to much, or worse than that, left me feeling like Unferth was willing to admit that this whole fiction-writing thing's just a game, one to be played cool a ...more
I'm of two minds about this one. On the one hand, the elements of the story, characters trailing each other based on coincidence and misperception, really got me engaged in the almost spy-novel mysteriousness of it all, and I liked that while suggesting those genres the stakes here were domestic rather than political yet no less life-or-death. On the other hand, so much tension and momentum were sapped by revealing information too early, or by cutting away from one character to another just as i ...more
Summer Brennan
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.)
Rex Reynolds
"And it isn't just these little pony acts I break up. I also go to places on the other side of the earth where fishers empty their nets, drop the dolphins on the docks, and hack them to bits, toss them aside. I go underwater, cut their lines, explode their boats. I leave the fishers notes. The next slice you make on a dolphin will be matched on the anatomy of your wife. I slash their bedding, clothing, whatever dumb-eyed pet happens to be at hand, as a visual example for the illiterate."
-- p. 12
Jamie Bradway
Unferth is an excellent writer - after only two ventures into her works, I'd rank her among my favorites. Vacation has beautiful sentences, paragraphs, and movement. The mere snippets of characterization and action, touching base before flitting to the next, give the book momentum. She has mastered metaphor and is, perhaps, the least likely of any author to rely on cliché.

The writing, I think, is better than the story. The human condition revealed is a bit altered from what I believe likely to e
Jack Waters
Deb Olin Unferth is largely influential to me w/r/t writing. Unferth's is a writing that pushes enough against the grain of convention that it creates an original, recognizable voice without drawing too much attention to itself, which is an awfully difficult thing to pull off. I think she's better than Jennifer Egan in that regard (I do like Egan). She's Don DeLillo-ish to me, and that's a compliment I reserve for few authors... 'Vacation' mulls over the ideas of escape, curiosity, mistakes, dev ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 65 66 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Excerpt and event spotlight: Deb Olin Unferth's VACATION 1 12 Oct 19, 2009 12:10PM  
  • 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
  • Motorman
  • We Take Me Apart
  • I.
  • Fever Chart
  • Icelander
  • Bowl of Cherries
  • The Avian Gospels, Book I
  • A Child Again
  • Here They Come
  • The Pharmacist's Mate
  • Wide Eyed
  • The Instructions
  • Mira Corpora
  • Atmospheric Disturbances
  • The Children's Hospital
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
More about Deb Olin Unferth...
Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War Minor Robberies PANK 5 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 The Apocalypse Reader

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“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
“You know how it is to want something. Desire builds like a little house in your head and it sits there, half-constructed in your mind. Women who want children are this way. Artists are this way about pictures. It doesn't go away. You may forget for a few months but then it's back, the unfinished pieces of what you want.” 7 likes
More quotes…