One (likely snowy) evening this past April in Minneapolis, a group of local literati gathered at the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge to celebrate the launch of Sarah Stonich’s latest novel, Vacationland. Writers Carol Connolly (St. Paul’s Poet Laureate), Peter Geye, Marty Kihn, Danny Klecko, Pamela Klinger-Horn, Kathryn Kysar, and Andy Sturdevant joined in the good cheer and read (or interpreted, in some cases) select passages from Sarah’s book. We’ve put together a brief video with clips from the festive meeting, complete with a track from “The TackyNites.” We hope you will enjoy.
As a supplement to the trailer’s release, author Sarah Stonich has provided a character exploration of a mysterious, silent figure in the novel that those who know Vacationland will immediately recognize and interested readers will be intrigued by. This figure appears in the opening chapter of the book, so there are minimal spoilers here for those who haven’t read it yet.
BY SARAH STONICH
Best-selling author of These Granite Islands and founder of WordStalkers.com
You might say I had a hand in it. I mean the story. I was in it. Then out of it. Then back in.
Up this way folks don’t much presume to know what’s in the head or heart of the guy on the next stool, but I will tell you this with one hundred perfreakingcent certainty: if you are in possession of a pair of hands at the ends of your arms and they are in good working order, you’re taking them for granted. One minute I was working on a run of aromatic cedar bead-board for closets in a McMansion cabin and the next instant I’m zooming out the double doors and over the dumpster past the deer fence. Sheriff Janko was right, those bandsaws pack some torque. Make a nice clean cut, too.
The snow had started falling around lunchtime and it was a payday-Friday at the mill so everybody was a little rushed already, then very rushed looking first for something to jerry-rig into a tourniquet, then for me.
The dog in this story, which I had petted a week before the accident, is the granddaughter of a wolf paired with a malamute. Most of the snarl bred out, but still with a wolf-lanky set of haunches on her. Probably you’ve never wondered what it’s like to travel a mile in a snowstorm in the jaws of a wolf mix? Imagine a Lincoln Town Car as the Labrador retriever of conveying prey – bred as they are for delivering fowl intact with not a feather ruffled. Now think of a Jeep with a cracked axle and bad shocks.
So, over the river to the kitchen at Naledi, where I’m dropped to the linoleum as an offering for Meg, the painter who keeps leaving and coming back. I’d heard the husband was a real stick but he seemed hospitable enough – gave me a bowl of ice and slid me into the fridge next to a jar of fancy jam. When the door is shut, in case you didn’t know, the light really does go out.
Ever sit for a portrait? At first it’s weird being stared at, especially when you are freaking someone out just for being a disembodied appendage. After a while Meg breathed easier and just stared, like I was only an object, a shape. Posing in front of a painter’s gaze will make you very aware of the outline you fill. At one point she got pretty into it and even twined her fingers with mine and drew that view – which is probably when she realized there was life in me yet.
The ride in the cooler on the snowmobile was just a muffled buzz, and things only got dimmer during the flight in the chopper (low as I was on essential fluids, i.e., blood). Landing at St. Sebastian’s Medical got sort of exciting – so much attention, and I did look forward to hooking up with my old wrist. But an eleven-hour surgery and a long hospital stay I cannot recommend. Six weeks trussed up like a cotton burrito with only fingertips getting any air and the occasional prick from nurses or the vascular surgeon watching for twitches.
While still in the hospital I was handed the OSHA report stating the safety on the band saw was faulty. I knew then we could make a stink in court and be rich, but maybe also bankrupt an employer I had no complaint with. That day at the mill I was fifty percent hasty and they were fifty percent negligent, so splitting the difference seemed fair. Many jokes about a severance package later we settled. Misfortune provided down payment for the original Lefty’s, the building, all the fixtures and stock. The rest was work. There are sixteen shops now and we have our own fly-tying supply line, still-water lures made here in Minnesota and the motto Bait Locally.
I could say I’ve “touched” lives, had my “fingerprints” on a few things, but will keep the uncle humor to a minimum. As for my handprint on our little corner of Vacationland, I’ve cast many a line over these waters, knotty-pined my share of cabin kitchens and hoisted many a twelve-pack counterward at Walt’s.
Next page you turn in Vacationland? Think about the ease of your fingers just doing it automatically, without your even thinking.
And thank Dog.
Sarah Stonich is author, most recently, of Vacationland, and the best-selling author of These Granite Islands, translated into seven languages and shortlisted for France’s Gran Prix de Lectrices de Elle. The founder of WordStalkers.com, she lives in Minneapolis and spends summers in northeastern Minnesota.
“Vacationland showcases Sarah Stonich’s incredible talent and ability to insert humor and startling details into the narrative without disrupting the story. In her capable hands Vacationland becomes a destination you’ll want to visit again and again.”
—Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang
“A deeply mined narrative of place and people, elegiac yet life-affirming.”
“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