In season four of Darren Star’s hit TV Land series Younger, the editors at Empirical Press are shocked and deeply moved when they read Marriage Vacation, an autobiographical novel by the publisher’s estranged wife, Pauline Turner Brooks. Knowing the book will cause a sensation, they decide they must publish it. Now you can read what the hype is about.
To find herself…she might lose everything.
By all appearances, Kate Carmichael had the perfect life: two adorable daughters, a pre-war town house on the Upper East Side, and a husband who ran one of the most successful publishing companies in New York. But when Kate attends the wedding of two of her oldest friends and reconnects with successful classmates from graduate school, she suddenly sees her life in a different light: the career she didn’t pursue, the dreams she’s locked away, the empty veneer of her privilege.
When the wedding weekend ends, instead of heading home to her husband and family, Kate gets on a plane and flies halfway around the world. She claims it’s just going to be for a week—two max—so she can clear her head, make headway with her writing, and shake free of the feeling that time is passing her by.
But just like Kate’s life, the adventure doesn’t go quite as planned. When it’s time to return, she finds herself trapped between wanting to be a good mother and partner and needing to find herself again.
This provocative and gripping novel asks: is a wife and mother allowed to have a midlife crisis? And, if she does, can she ever be forgiven? Marriage Vacation is for anyone who has ever fantasized about what it would be like to run away from it all.
I should preface this with the fact that I’m currently on round 4 of binge-watching Younger, I follow the stars on my personal Instagram, and I literally went out and purchased this book the day it came out. Why am I telling you this? To let you know my opinion is clearly biased.
This book was essentially just fan fiction, an opportunity for Charles (Karl?) and Pauline (Kate?) to have their story hashed out without forcing the TV series to do an awkward time-hopping episode that would inevitably leave the viewer with more questions than answers. Plus, there are so many fun nods toward the series, from the Acknowledgements thanking Liza and the logo stating that Millenial imprint published the story. Personally, I totally fan-girled.While the story completely stands alone and can be read without watching the show, I’m honestly not sure that one would enjoy this quite as much without the prior investment. (Side note: if someone has read this and doesn’t watch Younger, I’d love to know your thoughts!)
One of the things that I appreciated about the book was that it wasn’t necessarily just Pauline making excuses for her “marriage vacation.” She admitted that she lost her identity in her husband, experienced postpartum depression and didn’t seek help, and felt as though she couldn’t . In keeping with Younger’s trend of discussing extremely relevant topics with a hint of fantasy and humor, Pauline was able to bring to light that so many people, especially women, suffer from these and WE. NEED. TO. TALK. ABOUT. IT. Mentally healthy is just as important as physical health, y’all. Also, depression does not discriminate based on social class, family life, wealth or any other topic that may take a person appear “elite.”
The story itself was exactly what I expected: a detailing of Pauline’s year away. Did I want to scream at her at times? Oh, absolutely. Did I question her judgment? You bet I did. But did I ultimately understand how she got to where she felt “trapped?” Yes, I actually did (honestly, that was a total shock to me). I truly felt the author encompassed the emotions and internal struggles and evoked so many feelings that I never knew a story needed. It was truly fantastic.
If you’re a fan of the series, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy. If you’re in the Chapel Hill area, holla and I’ll let you borrow mine! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to binge watch the series for the thousandth time to see what other nuggets I missed!