From the Paperback edition.
Pungent humor and a shrewd eye for human foibles make this latest addition to Hassler's Staggerford saga ( North of Hope , etc.) memorable. The small Minnesota town is set on its ear by Miss Agatha McGee, an upright elderly resident with a sawtoothed tongue. At loose ends due to forced retirement from her longtime teaching post, Agatha despairs when she looks at the motley crew of friends gathered at her table for an excruciating Thanksgiving dinner (described in hilarious detail). At one time, Agatha's respite from these small-minded, albeit kindhearted people was her Irish pen-pal James, to whom she poured out her feelings, but she severed that tie when she discovered he was a priest. Now, she signs on for a tour of Italy where, unbeknownst to her, James awaits. During her absence from Staggerford, a malicious neighbor finds their correspondence and lays it on the public pillory. Agatha returns to cold shoulders from townsfolk angered by her sharp commentaries, but finds consolation in her deepening relationship with James--and with the Church. It's Staggerford's gleeful eccentrics, not the author's occasional plunges into maudlin sentimentality, that linger in the mind after reading this deliciously rich, simmering brew of envy, charity and redemptive love. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. Hassler returns to his fictional Minnesota town of Staggerford for a quiet story that centers on the themes of loss and spiritual renewal. He populates this new novel with a number of characters who first appeared in his debut novel, Staggerford ( LJ 7/77). Agatha McGee, a Catholic school teacher, faces a number of crises in her 70th year. She must confront her own forced retirement, the realization that her long-time Irish pen pal (the James of the title, for whom she was nurturing more than Platonic feelings) is a priest, and the fact that the world still harbors a host of evils--from the Irish Troubles, to terrorism, to the petty jealousies that ruin lives in a small town. Hassler's usual facility with language is not as powerful as in earlier works, but his characters can still intrigue. This is a work that resonates best in context with the earlier works. Recommended for large fiction collections and collections of regional fiction. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/93.- Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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- Ballantine Books; 1st edition (April 13, 1993)
- Literature & Fiction
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