Vacationland: A Novel by Sarah Stonich

Vacationland by Sarah StonichBOOK PREVIEW

From the best-selling author of These Granite Islands, a novel of stories intersecting at a broken-down fishing resort in the north woods of Minnesota

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. 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.

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.

Early reviews of Vacationland are in and glowing!

“…with compassionate insight and a gift for artful observation…each chapter renders a story complete, and together weave a deeply mined narrative of place and people. Elegiac, yet life affirming.” ~ Kirkus

“Vacationland showcases Sarah Stonich’s incredible talent.” ~ 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

Sarah Stonich on the true character of rural life

Vacationland’s Naledi Lodge is inspired by those rustic mom-and-pop resorts that are disappearing along with their big fish, bad mattresses, wooden docks, flashlight trots to the outhouse, the real Milky Way, and bonfires.

I feel equally invested in all of the visitors to Naledi – like Jon, the Ojibwe stonemason who observes the world with a writer’s sensibility, or Ursa, who is completely out of patience for polite chat but can look back on her life without regrets. I have soft spots for Alpo, the retired machinist, and Cassi the obsessive compulsive teen. I’d like to know them all better, and while they each have a distinct story, it’s the sum of their parallax views that brings Naledi to life – their connections are like those hand-drawn maps of resorts with cabins dotting the shore, curvy paths and driveways connecting one to the next and each to the docks, and the looping circular drive encompassing all.

Like any tourist economy, the dynamic here between locals and vacationers isn’t always harmonious. I wanted to explore the flip side: what townies and tourists do have in common, like the winter caretaker who turns a scientific eye to local wildlife in the way a Halifax geologist might. Any assumptions I’d had about rural versus metropolitan were dashed. While the women in Hatchet Inlet are all strong, the men are not all goodlooking, and not all the children are above average. Rather, the true character of Northern Minnesota runs deep, rich and indirect as any vein of iron ore.

My hope is that visitors to Vacationland leave with more than a lousy t-shirt—that they would take away enduring memories as well.


Sarah Stonich is the bestselling author of These Granite Islands, translated Sarah Stonichinto seven languages and shortlisted for France’s Gran Prix de Lectrices de Elle; the critically acclaimed novel The Ice Chorus; and a memoir, Shelter. The founder of, she lives in Minneapolis and spends summers in northeastern Minnesota. For more visit

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