Press kit for Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages

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Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages
A Novel
Sara Rath
Library of American Fiction
Terrace Books, a trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date is August 2006
LC: 2005008263 PS
334 pp. 6 x 9 map
ISBN: 0-299-21524-5 Paper $16.95 t
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-21524-8

Publication date of cloth edition was September 2005
ISBN 0-299-21520-2 Cloth $24.95 t
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-21520-0


"Sara Rath's keen sense of detail and tender eye for small-town mysteries and interstices make this a heartfelt debut."—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and The Breakdown Lane


Publishers Weekly | Booklist | The Capital Times | The Isthmus

"A diversion as pleasant as a quiet summer day at the lakeshore"
—from the Publishers Weekly review below

"A Madison, Wisconsin, 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." —Publishers Weekly (August 2005) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"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."—from the Booklist review below

"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, Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

"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 family 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.—The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) Friday, September 2, 2005: Heather Lee Schrooeder

"If you like to imagine yourself into various roles in the hospitality industry—bed-and-breakfast proprietor, lakeside resort owner—you'll enjoy Sara Raths debut novel, Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages (UW Press). Rath combines breezy humor with a little adventure, a little mystery and some serious politics. "The serious part came first,' says Rath of the story of Hannah Swan, a UW–Madison English professor who unwillingly inherits an "up north" resort from a reclusive uncle and then finds herself caught up between the locals who want to keep Star Lake a fishing resort and a mining company that wants to buy her out. Even so, a humorous edge crept in: "I always feel a need to be entertaining," says Rath. Readers can take the novel as "a story about a woman going through changes, mother/daughter relationships, wilderness conservation, a funny commentary on sexuality, or just as a fun story."—Linda Falkenstein, Isthmus , (Madison, Wisconsin) September 9, 2005

Cover image:

the cover of Rath's novel is a photo illustration of a woman's dangling her legs over the edge of a boat on a Wisconsin lake. She sports blue flip-flops.The boat is named the Sara Rath.

This cover image can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity for this book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.
For a pdf version, contact

Author's photoa black and white photo of Sara Rath. She has glasses and is wearing a dark turtleneck sweater. Photo credit: Nancy Rubly

This image can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity for this book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.

Please direct any inquiries for further publicity materials to our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:



The Terrace Books logo is designed in the shape of a book with a Union chair in silhouette on the cover. The words Terrace Books, Madison, Wisconsin appear also.

This logo for Terrace Books can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity any Terrace Book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.


"The entire resort looked more forlorn in sunshine than it had during rain. Just inside the door of the Saloon were coat hooks she'd missed the day before, made of severed deer legs bent at right angles, hooves up. More of Ginger's artistry? Procrastinating, Hannah helped herself to a can of Diet Pepsi from the cooler behind the bar. Then she took a couple bags of salted peanuts and, to quell her anxious stomach, swallowed a Valium with the soda. This was lunch. A sunbeam glancing through the window near the bygone replace illuminated the claret jukebox as if it were a honky-tonk jewel. It took only a nickel to play one of the 75 rpm polkas. She emptied
an ashtray and wiped it clean with the bar rag to the familiar strains of "Beer Barrel Polka."

She tried to picture the bar bouncing with activity, Ollie and Swede and their buddies (and their wives) bobbing in time to the jukebox, drinking beer, playing sheepshead. The Milwaukee Brewers might be playing on TV, or the Green Bay Packers. A hamburger slapped on the grill would sizzle out from the kitchen and more people would think they were hungry. Pretty soon the whole place would pulse with accordion music and laughter and the spit of hot grease would mingle with cigarette smoke and spilled beer and we'd be having fun. We'd be having fun, you bet!

Of course Ginger would be lost without her hangout, but if the new owners wanted to keep the Saloon going maybe they'd let her stay on. Seeing everything razed, all those vacation memories going back to who-knows-when disappearing in a puff of dust and rubble—well, Hannah wouldn't have to stick around to watch."

"Don't see many Madison folks up here. Milwaukee, maybe. Illinois, mostly. Lots of Illinois buyers looking for land, winterized cottages, condos, you name it." Schultz pronounced the "s" in Illinois so the name of the state rhymed with noise."

"See what happens. Get a better feel for what's going on."
"I don't owe these people anything," Hannah interrupted, pointing at the names in the notebook. "Or you, or even my Uncle Hal, for that matter."
"I think he meant . . ."
"How do you know what he meant?" Hannah asked, irritated.
"Tell me what he meant! I really would like to know just what in the hell my crazy uncle had in mind for me in this neck of the goddamn woods! "
But Kerry was silent.
"Maybe it's news to you, Mr. Kerry, but your northwoods isn't some kind of dazzling Shangri-la. My father would have another fatal heart attack if he knew what I'd inherited."
"I just thought—" Kerry began.
But Hannah interrupted. "I happen to have a life of my own that does not coincide with salvaging this dump. Can't you figure it out? I really don't give a damn!"

"What's your secret, Uncle Hal?" she whispered. "And why have you involved me in your death when you barely acknowledged me while you were alive?

Hannah sat quietly. She wanted say something about the pain he caused her family in the past. She wished she could express her resentment for upsetting the comfortable rhythms of her life right now.

Hannah turned off the motor. Then she changed to the middle seat, turned around, slipped the oars into the oarlocks and began to pull. She checked her watch. They had already been out for over an hour and rowing back against the wind would take a lot longer than that.

She rowed, unable to see where she was heading. They collided with stumps, rocks, and once (Hannah knew this had been a sign; why hadn't she realized?) the hideous skeleton of the deer. She screamed and Babe, frightened, barked, which scared her even more.

Hannah quickly tried to retrieve the glasses, tipping the boat so it nearly capsized. At the same time she dislodged an oar, which fell free and ooated away in the rapid current. The dog leaped into the water to get the tennis ball that rolled off the seat and bounced over the side.

"Goddammit! Get back in this boat right now!" Hannah yelled, exasperated.

Babe swam over to the boat, paddling with difoculty in the weeds. She snorted water, shook her head, the yellow ball securely clenched in her jaws. Hannah could swear the dog was grinning. Babe was having a great time, sleek and shiny as a seal. But how could Hannah get her back over the side of the boat without flipping everyone and everything?

It took a while. There were many false starts, but finally Hannah found that if she hugged Babe backward to her chest under the dog's front legs and propped her own right foot against a tree branch to counterbalance the weight, she could boost the slippery, dripping dog up over the edge and down, onto her lap.

Now Hannah was dripping, too, and sweating from the exertionof lifting a slick and slimy dog. Babe wriggled out of her grasp, licked Hannah's face, then shook herself in a gigantic shiver that began with the whiskers on her nose and ended at the tip of a tail that wagged like a crazy whip. At least one of them was happy.

It was rather pleasant, the comforting lap of the water against the boat, the birds trilling from the edge of the forest on the shore, the warmth of the pale spring sun. Hannah wondered if that was part of the attraction of fishing: the calm feeling, a sedation, almost, induced by the soft rocking motion, the silence. "

Author's bio:

Sara Rath is the author of four volumes of poetry and five nonfiction books, including The Complete Cow. She has also written for television and film. She lives in Spring Green, Wisconsin. This is her first novel.

For more information in addition to this press kit contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:

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