Review: Witty friends bond in ‘People We Meet on Vacation’

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This cover image released by Berkley shows “People We Meet on Vacation,” a novel by Emily Henry. (Berkley via AP)

“People We Meet on Vacation,” by Emily Henry (Berkley)

A truly good romantic comedy, whether it be a novel or a movie, justifies why two people are drawn to each other. It builds a case for the relationship so it makes sense why they’re together.

In Emily Henry’s latest book, “People We Meet on Vacation,” she does just that, introducing Poppy and Alex, two polar opposites who met in college but happened to both be from the same town in Ohio. It’s a shared ride home for the summer (hello, wink to one of the greatest rom-coms ever, “When Harry Met Sally”) where they talk about everything and anything, and a friendship is born.

The two remain best friends even beyond college when their lives take them to different places. Poppy moves to New York to become a travel writer. Alex moves back home to teach. They establish a tradition to take a vacation together every year to catch up. Each time they reunite, Poppy and Alex reestablish their rapport, as if no time has passed. The vacation is a sacred ritual to look forward to, no matter who they’re dating or what they’re doing.

Except something happened on their last trip to Croatia two years ago that caused a rift, and now Poppy and Alex haven’t spoken in two years. Poppy gets up the nerve to propose another trip with the hope of getting her friend back, and to her delight, Alex agrees.

The book jumps around in its timeline, to past vacations and present day — detailing their history and orbit around the other.

What Henry is especially skilled at is writing dialogue. The banter between Poppy and Alex is so natural, quick and witty that it would make Shonda Rhimes do a slow clap. It also reminds the reader why these two come alive with each other in a way that they do not with anyone else.

Whether or not Poppy or Alex can resolve their difference remains to be seen, but Henry creates a story where you’ll want to stick with it to see what happens.

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