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Book Review - Sawbill: A Search For Place

Apr 29, 2018 05:46PM ● By Editor

Review by Kim Ode - From the Star Tribune - April 29, 2018

Sawbill: A Search for Place

By Jennifer Case. (University of New Mexico Press, 264 pages, $19.95.)

Gosh, this is a curious book, almost like peeking into someone's diary. North Shore devotees familiar with Sawbill Canoe Outfitters or Solbakken Lodge may glean some history, such as that the log lodge at Sawbill was moved and rebuilt at Solbakken. Jennifer Case, who grew up in Mankato, says she's "infatuated" with the fact that her grandparents owned Sawbill Lodge for a few years when her father was a boy.

In this book, she means to explore the power of place and what is lost in our more mobile culture. The topic is worthy, but it's buried beneath the suffocating weight of her search for drama. She is irked that her grandparents aren't well-remembered as lodge owners. She's unsettled by an aunt's breezy reminiscence, thwarting the search for "grievances that sent my family from that place." Case's own rootlessness distresses her, moving with her husband as they start their careers.

If only her grandparents hadn't left the resort, then maybe she wouldn't have left Minnesota. Turns out, Case eventually learns that the resort simply was a lot of work — something she had not considered. "Without anyone in particular to blame, I have nowhere to transfer my anger, my dissatisfaction at my family's nebulous tie to this place," she writes. "It settles around me, heavy and amorphous, while outside it rains and rains and rains." Oof.

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