Vacationland is a book of linked short stories that will have you laughing, crying and wanting more. Meg Machutova, a painter, is one common thread throughout the stories, but the more dominant thread is Naledi Lodge, a once thriving resort consisting of multiple cabins and eccentric characters filling each one. Meg owns the lodge in present day and we get to know her past through the stories.
Don’t expect a chronological telling, oh no, Stonich wants you to experience Meg and Naledi Lodge on her terms and really, you won’t want it any other way. Each story’s title is a foreshadowing of what you will discover in the heart of the story – a wonderful appetizer to the main course that is the story itself.
I usually have favorite characters when I read and Vacationland is no different: Meg, who loves the lodge; Jon Redleaf, a handyman sort of guy – a constant; Ursa Olson, a delightful, sturdy woman who makes us laugh – a genuine, loving person; Polly McPhee, a writer who routinely visits Naledi Lodge to finish her writing and whose private life becomes horribly complicated; and of course, Vaclav, who is Meg’s guardian – a little gruff, but a truly good person.
Sarah Stonich has made me a believer in linked short stories collections. I’ve been dabbling in them for a few years (I thought Pam Houston’s Waltzing the Cat was extraordinary), but I’ve always been cautious. I was intrigued from the first words of “Separation.”
I do have a word of advice. Make sure you have an object to grip when you read “Disembarkation.” It is probably the most riveting story in the collection. Just thought I’d tempt you a bit – you know – offer an appetizer, so to speak. -- Wendy, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
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.
About 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.
"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