I’m a sucker for love stories with damaged people, and this novel checks all my boxes: it’s fun, but serious and smart. Alex and Poppy’s adventures are hilarious, their dialogue is a riot, but they’re both quietly terrified—of love, of happiness, of losing each other.
Poppy has always felt alone: in small town Ohio, in the high school where she was bullied, even in the chaotic family she adores. She’s trying to outrun herself, connecting with strangers on the road, searching for a way to belong.
The oldest of four boys, Alex raised his brothers after their mother died in childbirth and their father retreated from family life. Alex needs things to make sense, and he and Poppy don’t.
He wears pressed khakis, she wears vintage orange jumpsuits. He goes all the way with his education; she bails on college. He returns to Ohio to teach at her old high school and wants the picket fence; she has a glamorous job on a travel magazine in New York and has vowed to never live in Ohio again. And yet they’re best friends.
Every summer for ten years, they’ve taken a trip together. Until two years before the novel starts, when something happened between them. They haven’t spoken since.
Without Alex in her life, nothing brings Poppy joy, not even the career she’s worked so hard to establish. She decides to invite him on one last trip to win back his friendship. He agrees, she plans every detail, and with the clock ticking, it all goes horribly wrong. Or does it?
As the story weaves between present day and their ten crazy trips, we come to understand how much they need each other.
The best part? This novel circles one of my favorite themes: home can be a person.