I’m a huge fan of Younger, and after seasons of being on the fence between Josh and Charles (they are just both so great), I have recently landed firmly on Team Charles.
Naturally, as someone on Team Charles, when I found out his ex-wife’s book, Marriage Vacation, was being published in the real world, I jumped at the chance to read it.
The whole book is in-universe. There’s a little Millennial logo on the spine, and no mention anywhere of who actually wrote it. Even the acknowledgements are from Pauline’s perspective.
If you’re burning with curiosity but aren’t going to bother reading the book anytime soon, here’s how it all goes down.
Let’s get the who is who out of the way first:
The book begins with Kate in California for her friend’s wedding.
Karl hasn’t joined her because of a work emergency (at Paradigm, the stand-in for Empirical), and Kate’s low-key pissed about it.
There’s a lot of Kate’s internal musings about how hot she and Karl are together, and how everyone is always jealous of them, and how dare Karl not be around NOW because nobody is jealous of her at this wedding.
In fact, Kate is the one who is being eaten up by jealousy – thanks to the appearance of one of her old college friends, Nina, who is now a successful author.
Unlike Kate, who gave up writing after she got married and had kids. Because even with a live-in nanny, she was far too busy redecorating her and Karl’s THREE properties to devote any time to writing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Kate is still at the wedding. In a plot straight from Younger, her friend Nina slips her a molly-spiked brownie, and Kate unwittingly gets extremely high.
The last thing she remembers is skinny dipping in the ocean, which provides the opportunity for the first ~sexy~ scene of the book – not in the present day, but a flashback to when her and Karl were more sexually adventurous.
She considers going to Thailand after all, and this is the clincher: She calls Karl, her very busy husband who is dealing with a massive work problem, and decides that if he answers, she’ll go home, but if he doesn’t, she’s going to Thailand. What a mature and well-adjusted adult thing to do. Uh-huh.
On the plane to Thailand, Kate writes Karl a letter explaining where her head is at. She recounts how she and Karl first met in a bookshop in Paris, and how they gave in to their passion that night in a public park. THAT’S RIGHT, it’s the infamous page 58.
Anyway, Kate never sends the letter, instead calling Karl a day after she’s arrived in Thailand. He’s shocked, but pretty understanding, all things considered.
Kate is now at a retreat, in the middle of nowhere, by herself. You see, her friend Nina is a no-show. Kate is surprised, until she remembers Nina is a total flake who always cancels on plans.
Kate decides to stick around anyway, and uses the time to sleep and write. She makes a list of goals she wants to achieve by the end of her week in Thailand:
Then Kate decides, after months of writing, she should do something for someone else, so she volunteers for a day at a refugee camp for women and children on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. And surprise! She decides helping out there is her new calling, and cancels her trip home. At Christmas.
While Kate is busy writing and spending time at the refugee camp, she befriends Mia, a doctor, along with Mia’s younger brother, Derek, who is also helping out. Aaaand here’s where I got really twitchy.
I was expecting Kate to have a fling with Derek, and she does mention that she knows she can have sex with him if she wants to, but their relationship stays rather platonic, aside from some flirting here and there.
Meanwhile, on the writing front, Kate sends off some short stories to a literary magazine using her maiden name, and they agree to publish one after some extensive editing, which makes Kate pretty happy.
What makes her less happy is learning Karl has filed for divorce. She tries calling him, and guess who answers? That’s right, it’s LIZA. I mean, Lena.
But wait, before I get to the big climax, I have to tell you that this is the only mention of Liza/Lena in THE WHOLE BOOK.
Onto the climax: Kate delays going home once again to help out a refugee, Htet, who she’s become close to. Htet’s husband is missing in Myanmar, so Kate and Derek hop on a plane to try to find him. Before they get far, they’re in a car crash and Kate winds up in hospital with two broken ribs and a concussion.
In hospital, she hallucinates seeing Karl, but he’s not really there, of course – he doesn’t even know she’s in Myanmar, let alone that she’s been hurt.
Kate needs better medical attention than what’s given at the rudimentary hospital she’s in, but it’s too risky for her to fly all the way back to America. Derek suggests he and Mia take her to Australia, so she can go to the hospital in Darwin and then recuperate at his widowed father’s farm in the outback.
(BTW, Htet’s husband has been found while all this is going on, so that’s something I guess.)
If you’re thinking that the relocation of the story to Australia might get me twitching again, ding ding ding, you’re correct.
What follows is the most offensive passage in the book, in which Mia explains that their family farm is named “Bahloo Station” after “an old folktale” that “might have started with the native folk”.
On an entirely more trivial note, we then get the introduction of Mia and Derek’s dad, who is only in his fifties and “one of the most handsome men” Kate’s ever seen. Which doesn’t really compute because HAVE YOU SEEN HER HUSBAND?!
Kate enjoys her time at the farm, resting and writing – this is when she begins her novel, which will go on to become Marriage Vacation, because this whole thing is basically a snake eating its own tail.
In the middle of this, she learns via the internet that Karl is dating someone else, Daphne Sarraf – a stand-in for Radha, who you might remember Charles briefly dated in Season 3 of Younger. It’s suggested that Karl hasn’t mentioned it to her because he didn’t want to drop the bomb over the phone while she was still recovering from the accident.
Despite Kate wanting to fight for Karl at this point, she asks Mia to sell her wedding and engagement ring and give the money to Htet. I appreciate the noble intent and all but seriously WHAT ARE YOU DOING WOMAN THAT IS NOT THE WAY TO CONVINCE YOUR HUSBAND YOU STILL CARE?!
Meanwhile, Kate has also been enjoying Dusty’s company. Derek has picked up with his ex-girlfriend and is out of the house most of the time, while Mia has gone back to Thailand. So Kate and Dusty are left mostly alone with each other, and quite like what they see.
We get one final unsent letter to Karl, in which Kate says a very similar thing to what Charles told Liza on Younger about them being “two vines”.
Kate books a trip to Paris and asks Karl to meet her there, because she’s all about spontaneity now. He doesn’t, because one of their daughters gets sick, and unlike Kate, he chooses parenting over leaving the country on a whim.
Kate isn’t deterred, though – she FINALLY heads back to New York, after nearly a year away (on a trip that was only supposed to be one weekend, remember). She presents Karl with her manuscript and then… AND THEN…
There’s a flash-forward to “one year later”, and Kate describes a happy family trip to Hawaii, in which she and Karl have recaptured their passion for each other, and for fucking in public (they do it in a hammock near the beach).
So there you have it! The book everyone went so bananas about at Empirical. It is not really literary, as the show suggests, but it is a quick, easy, and relatively entertaining read.
As long as you’re not Australian. Then it will just piss you off.