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The Vacation: 11/16/15
Polly Horvath is originally from Kalamazoo Michigan but now lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Her books reflect her move and her adoption of a new country and home.
The Vacation by Polly Horvath begins in Critz, Virginia and ends somewhere in the United States, on some highway, mid road trip. It begins with Henry being left in the care of his aunts, Pigg and Magnolia, after his parents go to somewhere in Africa as part of a Mormon mission (even though neither of them are Mormons).
That's a rough start to a book and one that Horvath probably wouldn't have chosen were she to write the book now. Horvath's books, especially her most recent ones, are precise and detailed, even — no especially — especially when there are talking rabbits or other wacky characters. To just hand wave and say Africa is an unfortunate bit of sloppiness in order to get the parents out of the story without killing them.
Nor is The Vacation a straight up road trip either. Henry and his aunts don't hop into the family car the instant the parents leave. Instead, there's a grueling couple of weeks where Mag is desperately ill. The road trip springs from Mag's desire to convalesce and reclaim life. First stop is Virginia Beach.
If Virginia Beach was to be the civilized vacation, the type where one goes to a resort to take in the sun, maybe read a book, and people watch, then the trip that comes after is the exact opposite.
It's really only after Virginia Beach that The Vacation takes on the tone that I so love of the later Horvath novels. The road has an affect on travelers, transforming them with each mile. The motels with their wacky variations on a theme affect further changes. And it is in this transformation that Pigg and Mag come out of their shells and truly shine as characters.
There are too many different types of adventures to outline here without divulging plot and spoilers. I'm including a rough map, if you're curious.
If you'd like to follow along more closely with Mag, Pigg, and Henry, I logged my favorite quotes and thoughts on Tumblr.