Vacationland

( 6 )

Overview

On a lake in northernmost Minnesota, you might find Naledi Lodge—only two cabins still standing, its pathways now trodden mostly by memories. And there you might meet Meg, or the ghost of the girl she was, growing up under her grandfather’s care in a world apart and a lifetime ago. Now an artist, Meg paints images “reflected across the mirrors of memory and water,” much as the linked stories of Vacationland cast shimmering spells across distance and time.

Those whose paths have ...

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Vacationland

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Overview

On a lake in northernmost Minnesota, you might find Naledi Lodge—only two cabins still standing, its pathways now trodden mostly by memories. And there you might meet Meg, or the ghost of the girl she was, growing up under her grandfather’s care in a world apart and a lifetime ago. Now an artist, Meg paints images “reflected across the mirrors of memory and water,” much as the linked stories of Vacationland cast shimmering spells across distance and time.

Those whose paths have crossed at Naledi inhabit Vacationland: a man from nearby Hatchet Inlet who knew Meg back when, a Sarajevo refugee sponsored by two parishes who can’t afford “their own refugee,” aged sisters traveling to fulfill a fateful pact once made at the resort, a philandering ad man, a lonely Ojibwe stonemason, and a haiku-spouting girl rescued from a bog.

Sarah Stonich, whose work has been described as “unexpected and moving” by the Chicago Tribune and “a well-paced feast” by the Los Angeles Times, weaves these tales of love and loss, heartbreak and redemption into a rich novel of interconnected and disjointed lives. Vacationland is a moving portrait of a place—at once timeless and of the moment, composed of conflicting dreams and shared experience—and of the woman bound to it by legacy and sometimes longing, but not necessarily by choice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A deluge of exposition drowns the many admirable moments in Stonich’s novel-in-stories. Each piece is connected by Naledi Lodge, a ruined fishing resort in the north of Minnesota, and the diverse characters who’ve stayed there. The book’s best moments occur when Stonich lets her descriptive prose capture the natural beauty of the landscape; but the bulk of the narrative is psychological, following characters as they contemplate the past, lamenting their struggles with love and mortality. Although Stonich is capable of writing convincingly in a wide range of voices—from the war-haunted Sarajevo refugee who tries to assimilate into the church and fishing culture, to aging sisters who make a difficult and terrible decision together—each story too quickly turns to exposition for momentum, pouring out unnecessary information and sapping the narrative force. When Stonich allows her characters a rare scene, her crackling dialogue and smart turns of phrase create more life than a dozen pages of exposition. Stonich’s new book (after These Granite Islands) has great moments, but they’re difficult to find. (May)
From the Publisher

"Vacationland showcases the incredible talent of Sarah Stonich. Without flinching, Stonich leads the reader through the seemingly harsh and overwhelming landscape of northernmost Minnesota and reveals the heart of the characters who occupy this space. Vacationland, in her capable hands, becomes a destination that you will want to visit again and again." —Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

"Within Vactionland, Stonich collects the lonesome souls of a beguiling, timeworn place and gives us profound glimpses into their hopes and sorrows. By turns funny, haunting, and heartbreaking, she finds the universal in the specific, the deeply human in the parochial and peculiar." —Peter Bognanni, author of The House of Tomorrow

"In prose that is incisive and elegant, Stonich beautifully inhabits the hearts and minds of a richly diverse set of characters." —Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls

"Each chapter renders a story complete, and the stories together weave a deeply mined narrative of place and people, elegiac yet life-affirming." —Kirkus Reviews

"Stonich displays formidable narrative skill. While the novel presents brief vignettes in the lives of several characters, each interconnected story is given its own true, clear voice. Vacationland is compelling, witty, and nuanced, an incredibly enjoyable glimpse inside the worlds of seemingly disparate individuals. For fans of Richard Russo and Margaret Atwood, this is a brilliantly engaging novel, focusing on the power of memory, new discoveries, and shared experiences. A triumph." —Booklist, starred review 

"A brilliant collection of linked stories centered around Naledi, a fictive northern Minnesota fishing resort. Naledi inherits in Stonich (“These Granite Islands”) a chronicler with storytelling gifts reminiscent of our most holy mother of the frozen north, Alice Munro. She has a similar flair for ferrying readers back in time for several pages, deepening our regard for a character, then softly dropping us back into the present without a moment’s confusion or jostling. Stonich is also funny as hell, not the easiest thing to pull off in serious literary fiction. " —Star Tribune

Kirkus Reviews
Minnesota author Stonich (The Ice Chorus, 2005, etc.) draws a novel from 15 linked north-country stories. Naledi Lodge on Little Hatchet Lake is a now-faded Minnesota summer resort, a place of "water in all its incarnations--stream, swamp, puddle, or lake." Czech immigrant Vaclav Machutova ran the resort in its heyday. His orphaned granddaughter, Meg, spent summers there and winters in Chicago boarding schools. Stonich's lake-connected stories move through time from Meg's childhood onward, each story/chapter linked to Naledi Lodge like spokes to a hub. The book opens with adult Meg, a prominent artist, sketching a portfolio of a severed human hand brought home by her treasured wolflike dog. Then an advertising executive remembers a dalliance, a Lolita-like seduction. Adult sisters confront a euthanasia pact made after their mother's lingering death. A Balkan refugee, unable to penetrate the insular Scandinavian community, reconciles his isolation on the lake's quiet waters. Meg's citified gay cousin delivers Meg's mother's ashes and discovers a connection to family and place. One of the more affecting reoccurring characters is Ursa Olson, Vac's contemporary sometime-lover and a woman who prefers the hardy simplicity imposed by the inhospitable land. Ursa, defiant and self-reliant as her children plot to shift her from her cabin, finds comfort in one of Vac's lost journals. Readers also encounter a giant bull moose, deer silently drifting in a glade and empathetic characters--all rendered with compassionate insight and a gift for artful observation--including Polly, surrogate grandmother and science professor turned novelist; Alpo, trimming away at grief in topiary; one-dimensional Magda, who left Vac for a Third Reich functionary; Meg's father, Tomas, plunging to his death with his pregnant wife as an airplane crashes, "We will die, yes, but it'll be all right." Each chapter renders a story complete, and the stories together weave a deeply mined narrative of place and people, elegiac yet life-affirming.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816687664
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 279,660
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Stonich is the author of the critically acclaimed novels These Granite Islands and The Ice Chorus, as well as a memoir, Shelter. The founder of WordStalkers.com, she lives in Minneapolis and spends summers in northeastern Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Separation

Reparation

Destination

Assimilation

Moderation

Navigation

Calculation

Echolocation

Omission

Orientation

Disembarkation

Hesitation

Approximation

Occlusion

Tintinnabulation

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2014

     The first few pages had me hooked.  I found the characters all

     The first few pages had me hooked.  I found the characters all interesting in their own unique ways.  A great read, especially if you have had some experience with visiting a resort.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    I really enjoyed this book. I don't typically like a collection

    I really enjoyed this book. I don't typically like a collection of short stories. Each of her stories captured my interested and they wove together by the end of the book. If you've ever been to a resort in northern Minnesota, you could totally relate to the story lines.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2013

    I became a Sarah Stonuch fan after reading These Granite Islands

    I became a Sarah Stonuch fan after reading These Granite Islands. One of my all time favorite books! Vacationland is an amazing collection of characters I feel like I know and if you have ever spent time at an old mom and pop resort, you will love the trip down memory lane! It is an amazing cast if characters who each have their own story but then there is the fun twist of how they are intertwined. Enjoy this one and then go read These Granite Islands. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2013

    For the record, my wife and I both loved Vacationland. We have a

    For the record, my wife and I both loved Vacationland. We have a place 25 miles east of Walker, so can relate to the "up north" experience (and I am originally from Chicago so loved your referencing my favorite American city). However, I was both enamored and fascinated by Sarah Stonich's ability to capture the characters and their interactions, even over time-frames, with one another. She painted portraits of people I have seen and met, yet her descriptions allowed me to get to certain depths that one cannot necessarily achieve in reality. The stories evoked sounds and sights and aromas. It was a pleasure reading Vacationland on many levels so thank s to Stonich for that as well. Her talent is clear.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    While it's always a wonderful adventure to read a book by Sarah

    While it's always a wonderful adventure to read a book by Sarah Stonich, her latest, Vacationland, is an experience you don't want to end.  She marvelously wraps her words around a wide variety of characters, giving every one of them their own characteristic voices.  Read this book at your own risk - the risk of becoming a Sarah Stonich addict!!

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  • Posted March 31, 2013

    What a marvel! Stonich, as always, hits a home run with this cha

    What a marvel! Stonich, as always, hits a home run with this chain of short stories or chaptered novel. With her keen observing eye that spares no one, with her air-tight sentence and her seamless introductions of the past, Stonich creates complex characters that are familiar yet surprise you. 




    Vacationland is a series of stories/chapters that revolve around a resort in northern Minnesota and its owners, a grandfather/granddaughter duo. Both are "characters" in the small town sense: he is a tight-lipped immigrant, she a worldly artist who has lived in Chicago and London. But the book takes in many more characters than these two: it creates an entire town, chapter by chapter, story by story, each one with a fresh character and point of view. The shifts in perspective are done brilliantly and with care: Stonich helps the readers make the transitions with lovely description and background information.




    This is a groundbreaking book. Other books, such as Louise Erdrich's The Bingo Palace, had portrayed a community in a second person plural chorus-like fashion, but I have never reader a book with such tightly interwoven stories. When I started reading it, I thought it was a collection of short stories; by the end of the reading, it felt like a novel. 




    Stonich's sense of humor twinkles in her descriptions of the coffee-swilling chorus of old men at the diner, the Prius-driving nature-seeking tourist, or the lackluster high school girl who needs help with her homework assignment. On rare occasions, the book's language can become prose-y and flat, but I attribute that to the vast amount of background information the author must stuff into each story as she introduces new characters.




    If you have ever lived in a small town or stayed at a resort, if you appreciate fully drawn characters and good writing, you must read this book.

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