Vacationland - Sarah Stonich
3 stars felt too stingy, because it's just too well written, and since I can't give half-stars I rounded up, but 4 stars really is too generous - I didn't like it that much.

This book irritated me to no end for about the first 1/3. It is a beautifully descriptive and haunting collection of related short stories, but I didn't realize it until I started chapter 2, and it had absolutely nothing to do with chapter 1. Chapter 1 introduced us to Meg, one of the central recurring characters, and I really took a liking to her. Chapter 2 dealt with a retired couple and at first I thought the only link to chapter 1 would be the setting, Meg's home of Naledi, an old resort the couple used to go to when their children were young, but Meg did make a brief appearance.

What I found irritating, was that for the first few chapters, Ms. Stonich kept giving the stories of of people I had absolutely no interest in knowing. Sometimes Meg was a background character, sometimes it was her grandfather Vac, a curmudgeonly, taciturn Czech immigrant, and sometimes the only connection was the setting, an out-of-the-way resort called Naledi near a town called Hatchet Inlet.

I really liked Meg and Vac, and would have been thrilled to read a novel chronicling Vac's pre-WWII flight from Czechoslovakia with his young son, and the years afterward. Equally fascinating would have been a linear story about the inhabitants of Naledi and Hatchet Inlet, which were slowly introduced in later chapters.

Although later chapters gave a better semblance of creating one larger story, it wasn't enough to overcome the awkward structure of the book. It seemed a great injustice to the characters to have only bits and pieces of their stories told.