Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages: a Novel
From Publishers Weekly
"A Madison, Wis., woman takes a midlife detour to the northern woods of the Badger State after an uncle wills her a crumbling resort on remote Star Lake. Hannah Swann's personal and professional life may be a bit stagnant—she writes about "Bad Women Poets" of the 1800s and pursues a half-hearted affair with a married man—but she's still loathe to spend too long up north. But as she rolls up her sleeves and opens the resort, she begins to shake her self-doubts and her reliance on Valium, bonding with chirpy, folksy barmaid-cum-taxidermist Ginger. Ginger nudges Hannah into friendship with fishing guide Dan Kerry, who in turn enlists Hannah in the fight against a mining company that threatens Star Lake, thereby helping her find common ground with her activist adult daughter. Family secrets and industrial misdemeanors make for lightly troubling threads in Hannah's summer of reinvention, but Rath's excessively oddball cast of characters, from the lascivious smalltown lawyer to the bird-regulating "Loon Ranger," lighten the mood. Hannah's release from paralyzing self-doubt has its predictable setbacks and victories, but her gradual acceptance of Star Lake's eccentricities makes for a diversion as pleasant as a quiet summer day at the lakeshore." (August 2005)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Rath's debut novel tells the story of Hannah Swann, a Wisconsin poetry professor who suddenly inherits a rustic lakeside resort in the north woods run by her enigmatic prodigal uncle Hal. Leaving her work and an affair with a married man behind in Madison, Hannah heads north, where an expected bit of paperwork and a few days quickly turn into months. A mining corporation is trying to buy the resort, and it has money and power and even Hannah's devious lawyer on its side. Hannah finds herself having to put her liberal ideals to work, giving up her old life to save the place with help from a cast of lively characters. Many of them, unfortunately, are caricatures, and Rath's action is often a bit overboard as well. But readers will enjoy how Rath has thrown in a bit of everything--mystery, family drama, love story, and comedy--and will certainly like getting to know Hannah as she fights big business, hot flashes, and her own resistance to this wild and lovely place."
Donna Seaman - Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Review: The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) Friday, September 2, 2005: Heather Lee Schrooeder
"The notion that life in the North Woods of Wisconsin could save someone from midlife ennui and misdirection may sound a bit far-fetched or sentimental, but Sara Rath pulls it off in her novel "Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages." This light-hearted famikly drama/mystery follows teacher and writer Hannah Swann as she navigates through some serious life changes. Her quiet life (complete with a married lover and a fascination with 19th century women poets) transforms after her uncle -- whom she never knew and presumed was dead -- actually dies. He bequeaths her a run-down summer resort in northern Wisconsin.
"Rath does a nice job of illustrating one middle-aged woman's journey away from almost total emotional paralysis to self-confidence, but she also takes an opportunity to highlight the environmental woes that plague northern Wisconsin.
"...One of this novel's pleasures is watching Hannah's conceptions of the area slowly crumble under the reality of day-to-day living.
Rath, who lives in Spring Green, clearly loves Wisconsin's landscape and its people. She has written a novel that is frothy and fun with just enough suspense thrown in to make it the perfect end-of-summer read."