(Just because this book happens to be written by my gorgeous and prolific friend Sarah in no way implies that I am biased. This girl’s writing truly knocks me out.)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Maybe because of the title, I expected Vacationland to be a light, breezy read. What I didn’t expect was to be engrossed, obsessed, and ultimately knocked off my feet.
The book’s main character Meg was orphaned as a child and raised by her curmudgeonly grandfather Vac at Naledi, a harsh land near the Canadian border, and the Summer resort around which the book’s intricate human stories are interwoven. At Naledi, Meg will observe the many people who come and go, and each will leave an imprint. Meg is a fine artist known for her paintings of water, specifically the water of lake Naledi. In her paintings, one sees in the water’s surface a reflection of the beauty of the surrounding land and forest. But look closely, and there are scenes under the water – much deeper, more complicated than what appears on the surface. Just like this book. Stonich’s characters are simple folk, stoic – not a drama queen in the bunch – yet they are compelling and quirky and flawed and striving, and ringing with authenticity. Stonich peels back the layers of her characters in such an understated, artful way, showing her true skill as a writer. Page after page, I was drawn deeper into each story. I thought about the characters during the day as I was working, and couldn’t wait to steal away, to curl up with Vacationland, drift away on lake Naledi. As the book progresses, Stonich reveals with subtle restraint how each story and character are connected. It made me think of my own life — each person’s unique value, how interconnected we all are, and the impact we have on the lives of those we may never know.
For me, the worth of a book or film, or any art for that matter, is if it can make me feel, or think, in a way I haven’t before. I finished Vacationland a week ago and I’m still thinking about it…