Set in a dreamy coastal town, Inci Atrek’s debut novel, Holiday Country, is about three generations of women learning to make peace with the choices they have made. Narrated by the youngest of them all, Ada, the story is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is about lost opportunities and how far one may be tempted to go to recover them.
Things are just as you might imagine in the tiny seaside town of Ayvalik off the Aegean coast of Turkey—sleepy, quiet and slow-moving. Here, time is dictated not by the ticking of a clock but rather by the movement of the sun and tide. Oleander bushes line the pathways connecting the villas, the market and the two lone restaurants (aptly named the Big Club and the Small Club), and gossiping is as crucial a part of the lives of Ayvalik’s mostly retired residents as swimming, eating and sleeping.
19-year-old Ada has spent all her summer holidays here since she was 4. Ada and her mother Meltem’s annual pilgrimage to Ayvalik from San Francisco has been a consistent but mostly unsuccessful attempt to please Ada’s opinionated and controlling grandma, Mukadder, who never quite forgave Meltem for marrying an American and moving away.
This summer, however, there is uncertainty in the air for Ada, who has not only discovered that her father has been cheating on her mother, but is also unsure of how her impending adult life will change her summer getaways to Ayvalik and, by extension, her connection to her Turkish heritage and her sense of who she really is. Amidst this angst, Ada meets a handsome older man named Levent. Soon discovering he has a romantic past with her mother, she goes on a mission to get them back together again, while unintentionally falling for him herself.
With a setting that comes through beautifully in Atrek’s writing, Holiday Country is tender, well-written and filled with just the right amount of twists and turns.