The Vacation
By T.M. Logan. (St. Martin’s Press, 384 pages, $28.99.)

 

The choice seemed simple enough. Four women, best friends since childhood, want a getaway vacation. When the richest of them is offered a free week at a client’s villa in France, they all jump at the chance to invite their husbands and children to leave muggy England behind for the French beach and countryside.

One of the women is now a widow, a nagging wound that the group delicately sidesteps. The men, who know one another only through their wives, get along socially even if they seem to have little in common.

Right off the bat, Libby discovers a text on her husband’s phone from an apparent paramour, and she quickly deduces it has to be one of her fellow travelers. The cheating lovers have texted that they’ll “tell her” on the trip. Slowly she builds a case against each of her dear friends.

Each of the couples has complicated kids in tow. The youngest is spoiled rotten, an only child; another is distant and always plugged into his digital world; a younger brother yearns to play with the older kids. A lovely teen daughter is clearly troubled about something … a boy? Much adolescent drama, and, later, danger, ensues.

Along the way we learn all these characters’ back stories and fill in the blanks around their bizarre behavior on the trip. But the author doesn’t prepare us for the final tragic twist, even though the puzzle pieces were there all along.

GINNY GREENE

 

The Yellow Bird Sings
By Jennifer Rosner. (Flatiron Books, 304 pages, $25.99.)

Like Alice Hoffman’s recent “The World That We Knew” but better, Jennifer Rosner’s novel is the time-jumping story of a girl who survives the Holocaust by becoming one of thousands of “hidden children.” Jewish youngsters who avoided concentration camps either by hiding from the Nazis or by pretending not to be Jewish, they are represented in “Yellow Bird” by Shira, who lives in a hayloft with her mother until they are separated and Shira is sent to a convent. Shira means “poem” in Hebrew and Rosner fills “Yellow Bird” with spare, poetic language that describes how mother and daughter use music to fuel their spirit, how an imaginary bird keeps the child’s hope alive and how sacrifice can lead to both heartache and redemption.

CHRIS HEWITT