3 Sentence Summary
People We Meet on Vacation is a delightful romance novel that captures the essence of When Harry Met Sally. Emily Henry beautifully portrays the evolving relationship between Poppy and Alex over the span of a decade, filled with longing and missed opportunities. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, making it impossible not to root for their love story.
Summary Read Time: Less than 6 minutes
Actual Book Length: 364
First Published in: 2021
Below is the detailed yet quick Hook, Line & Sinker summary:
Part 1 (Prologue to Chapter 7)
“Poppy Wright, our travel-savvy protagonist, commences her journey five summers ago in the seemingly dreary Sanibel Island. Here, at a bar ironically named BAR, she huddles with her best friend, Alex Nilson, a recently single literature teacher. With a keen interest in budget-friendly adventures, Poppy runs a humble travel blog, a passion that would soon shape her destiny.
Fast-forward to the present day, where Poppy, now a successful travel journalist based in New York, shares her life with her influencer friend, Rachel Krohn. Despite her enviable position, Poppy confesses her happiness remains elusive. It takes Rachel’s probing questions for Poppy to realize that her happiest moments trace back to a time spent with Alex in Croatia, two years prior. Seizing the moment, Poppy reaches out to Alex. Their conversation though brief revives fond memories and offers a glimpse into their lost closeness.
As the story toggles between the present and a summer twelve years ago, we learn about Poppy and Alex’s shared roots in Ohio, further deepening their connection. Poppy’s yearning for joy brings her to an audacious plan – a summer vacation with Alex, an idea met with enthusiasm.
In a surprising turn of events, Poppy decides to forgo her professional commitments and fund a trip to Palm Springs, a decision she keeps from Alex. The nostalgic anticipation of reconnecting with Alex is tinged with tension as she arrives in Palm Springs. This hints at complexities yet to unfold in their shared journey.
Part 2 (Chapter 8 – Chapter 18)
Rewinding ten summers past, we find Poppy and Alex, now close companions, venturing to Vancouver Island. This damp but delightful getaway solidifies their love for travel and marks the start of their summer escapades. The present day finds our duo embarking on a journey to Palm Springs, equipped with an intriguing backstory of being newlyweds. A less than ideal studio rental poses a potential challenge to their strained friendship. Yet there’s an undercurrent of an emerging attraction between them, fuelled further by ambiguous details about Alex’s ex, Sarah.
Memories from nine and eight summers ago cast light on Poppy and Alex’s evolving dynamics. Their summer jaunt to Nashville is marked by confessions of virginity and past relationships, hinting at deeper intimacy. The present-day narrative unveils Alex’s move into his late grandmother’s house and the duo’s struggle with their budget accommodation. Meanwhile, an eight summers ago flashback shares their San Francisco expedition, where Poppy contemplates ending things with her then-boyfriend, Julian.
Presently, the friendship’s fragile veneer further cracks as Poppy nurses Alex’s back spasm, and a forgotten inside joke sparks doubt in Poppy’s mind about the depth of their friendship. However, her excitement over Alex’s potential move to New York is tempered by his unsettled relationship with Sarah.
The seven summers ago flashback transports us to New Orleans. Their the playful personas, Gladys and Keith Vivant, reign, further tightening their bond. Poppy’s emotional reaction to Alex’s short story reveals a poignant layer of shared loneliness and understanding. It creates an echo in the present day when they agree they’d “swipe right” for each other, hinting at a deeper connection yet to be fully realized.
Part 3 (Chapter 19 – Chapter 28)
Six summers ago brings a shift in Poppy and Alex’s respective romantic lives. Poppy breaks up with Guillermo, and Sarah, Alex’s college crush, moves in with him. Amidst this change, a fortunate offer for a free stay in Vail, Colorado, becomes a salvation for their summer trips. Their bond deepens during an adventurous rafting and hiking trip. During that there mutual confessions of loneliness culminate in a tender exchange of platonic love. Present-day Palm Springs has our protagonists sharing a bed in their sweltering apartment, enduring mishaps ranging from missed giraffe feeding times to a flat tire.
Five summers ago, in Sanibel Island, Poppy experiences the first stirrings of love for Alex. In the scorching present, a heated argument about their living situation, coupled with the unbearable heat, eventually cracks the tension between them. When the much-awaited rain arrives, it not only provides relief from the heat but also leads to a cathartic confession from Poppy, as she tells Alex, “I always want you.” This heartfelt admission leads to a passionately awaited kiss between the two.
A flashback to four summers ago recounts Poppy’s time with Rest + Relaxation. This allows her to travel extensively with Alex, despite him and Sarah breaking up. Illness obstructs their planned trip to Sweden and Norway, leading to a missed opportunity, but further solidifying their bond. Meanwhile, Poppy acknowledges their contrasting life aspirations – Alex desiring stability and she yearning for spontaneity, leading her to conclude they are incompatible. In the present, their romance blossoms further as they make love & finally get their apartment issues resolved. They relocate to a hotel with functional amenities, ending on a high note of a much-needed respite.
Part 4 (Chapter 29 – Epilogue)
Three summers ago, Poppy and Alex are in Tuscany on a double date vacation with their respective partners, Sarah and Trey. The Tuscan idyll is punctuated by a short-lived pregnancy scare for Poppy, leading to an emotional exchange with Alex.
Meanwhile, in the present, post-hookup, Alex and Poppy attend a wedding hand-in-hand. They engage in heart-to-heart discussions about their complex past, their mutual feelings, and their individual desires for the future. Despite Poppy’s admittance that the magazine isn’t financing the trip and her fears about life’s purpose, Alex gently prompts her to truly discern what she wants.
Two summers ago, they are in Croatia, both single after breakups. A drunken night results in an impulsive kiss, misinterpreted by Poppy as Alex’s lack of interest, and their vacation ends on a sour note. In the current timeline, Poppy, after introspection and therapy sessions, comprehends Alex’s intentions. Feeling disillusioned with her life in New York, she decides to quit her job and revisit her hometown.
Her journey home leads to an emotional encounter with Sarah and finally, a confrontation with Alex at a local bar, Birdies. Pouring out her heart, Poppy confesses her love and willingness to relocate back to Linfield for him. Although Alex initially rejects the proposition, fearing she might be giving up too much for him, he later has a change of heart and follows her out of the bar.
The epilogue offers a happily-ever-after with the couple living in New York. Poppy, now a columnist, and Alex, a teacher, look forward to a summer trip to Norway and Sweden, followed by a peaceful retreat in Linfield.