Books on summer vacation: 'One Plus One,' by Jojo Moyes, 'The Vacationers,' by Emma Straub, more

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From a road trip to an overnight camp to a foreign family getaway — here are novels that bring you the essence of summer, whether you’re on vacation or just stuck at home.
 

'Perennials,' by Mandy Berman

"Perennials" by Mandy Berman (Random House)
(Credit: Random House)

Horseback riding, arts and crafts, illicit parties . . . spend part of your summer at Camp Marigold in the Berkshires via Berman’s absorbing and moving debut novel-in-stories. Through its large ensemble cast, “Perennials” explores the dramatic events of the summer of ’06 from many different perspectives: besties who have been attending since they were small; a new girl who is one of the only black campers; counselors who have a long history with the camp and others imported for the summer from Israel, the U.K. and elsewhere; the divorced, lonely camp director. If that divorced, lonely camp director sounds like trouble, rest assured that he is. (Random House, $27)  — MARION WINIK

'The Summer Before the War,' by Helen Simonson

"The Summer Before the War" by Helen Simonson
(Credit: Random House)

It is the summer of 1914 and Beatrice Nash has arrived in the English coastal town of Rye to teach school — only to enter a realm of politely vicious village rivalry and class bigotry. She is quickly befriended by a bluish-blood family: Lady Agatha, her civil-servant husband and two nephews — a poet and a doctor. Also at large are the son of Agatha’s chief rival, two radical women, a Belgian refugee, a gypsy and a version of Henry James who is not a particularly nice person. This is a novel of backstabbing, romance and the waning light of that fateful summer that brought the pall and horror of the First World War. (Random House, $17 paper) — KATHERINE A. POWERS  

'The Vacationers,' by Emma Straub

"The Vacationers" by Emma Straub (Riverhead)
(Credit: Riverhead)

Back to Mallorca, this time with an American family on holiday: the parents, celebrating their 35th anniversary; a daughter just graduated from high school; a son, toting his very dumb and much older personal trainer girlfriend; plus a gay couple, close friends of the family, who are about to adopt a baby. Putting a bit of a damper on things is the fact that Dad has just lost his job as the editor of a men’s magazine for having an affair with an intern, but Straub’s sense of humor always makes the best of a bad situation. (Riverhead, $16 paper) — MARION WINIK  

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'One Plus One,' by Jojo Moyes

"One Plus One" by Jojo Moyes (Penguin)
(Credit: Viking)

Jess Thomas, abandoned by her shiftless husband and working two ill-paying jobs, must somehow get herself, daughter Tanzie, stepson Nicky and their flatulent dog from London, where they live in public housing, to Glasgow, where Tanzie, a 10-year-old math genius, hopes to win a Math Olympiad allowing her to attend a good school. Transportation arrives in the shape of an immaculate, fully-loaded Audi driven by Ed Nicholls, a wealthy software developer, disgraced insider-trader and veteran of failed relationships. Difficult personalities, car sickness and other challenges to a leather interior do not prevent a satisfying conclusion to a very funny, nicely poignant, thoroughly entertaining road trip. (Penguin, $16 paper)  — KATHERINE A. POWERS  

'The Rocks,' by Peter Nichols

"The Rocks" by Peter Nichols (Riverhead)
(Credit: Riverhead)

This novel opens on the island of Mallorca in the year 2005 with a chance meeting between two 80-somethings, Lulu Davenport and Gerald Rutledge, on a cliff-top road near the hotel Lulu owns. Though they live on the same small island, the couple has managed to avoid each other since their very brief marriage in the 1940s, and this encounter immediately becomes a confrontation. In its course, both tumble to their deaths. The remaining sections of the novel — skipping backward through the decades all the way to 1948 — wend their way to the incident that started it all. As intoxicating as a long afternoon at the bar in Lulu’s hotel. (Riverhead, $16 paper)  — MARION WINIK  

'From Rockaway,' by Jill Eisenstadt

"From Rockaway" by Jill Eisenstadt (Lee Boudreaux/Back Bay)
(Credit: Little, Brown)

Eisenstadt’s 1987 debut follows a group of Rockaway Beach lifeguards as they while away their days smoking, drinking and screwing around. The aimlessness of their lives is broken up by tribal rituals like the prom, the “Death Keg” and a meeting of Brass Balls Bridge Jumpers Association — and by a tragedy at the beach. The book is like a stoppered bottle containing the essence of youth culture — a decoction of boredom, yearning, recklessness and low-quality marijuana, earning it comparisons to “Saturday Night Fever” and the early films of Richard Linklater. A new sequel, “Swell,” revisits the characters 30 year later. (Lee Boudreaux/Back Bay, $15.99 paper) — MARION WINIK

'Do Not Become Alarmed,' by Maile Meloy

"Do Not Become Alarmed” by Maile Meloy (Riverhead)
(Credit: Riverhead)

This book sucks you in like a vacuum cleaner with a terrifying premise most parents can imagine all too well. Two families from Southern California, close as cousins, take a cruise to Central America. Their children are befriended by some Argentine teenagers, and at one of the shore stops, the three moms and six kids sign up for a zip-line tour of the rain forest. When the van breaks down on the way, the guide suggests a swim at a nearby beach — where all six kids disappear. The remainder of the book follows the children and the adults separately, unfolding with heart-stopping realism. (Riverhead, $29)  — MARION WINIK  

'The Past,' by Tessa Hadley

"The Past" by Tessa Hadley (Harper Perennial)
(Credit: Harper Perennial)

Four middle-aged siblings return for what is expected to be the last time to the house where they’d spent the summers of their youth. Alice, scatty and romantically bruised, brings an ex-lover’s son; Roland, a confirmed mansplainer, arrives with a daughter and his third wife, a formidable Argentine; shy, athletic Harriet is alone; and Fran, leaving her husband at home in the doghouse, brings her two children, whose imaginary life and its scary repercussions are one of the book’s exquisite highlights. An undercurrent of subtle, compassionate humor runs through this brilliant summer tale of family tension, revelation and reconciliation. (Harper Perennial, $15.99 paper) — KATHERINE A. POWERS  

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