North of Hope

Jon Hassler, Author Ballantine Books $19.95 (518p) ISBN 978-0-345-36910-9
As he has repeatedly been told, it was the deathbed wish of Frank Healy's mother that he become a priest. In the frozen reaches of northern Minnesota in 1949, Frank, a serious, studious youngster, is tempted from that vocation only by Libby Girard, a schoolmate whose violent home life does not impair her spectacular beauty. Libby marries a farmer and bears a daughter who grows to be a mentally ill femme fatale; Frank enters the priesthood. Twenty years later when Father Frank returns to his hometown parish to serve among townsfolk and Ojibwa Indians on the nearby reservation, Libby is there, too, with her third husband, a slimy, drug-dealing doctor, who has been sent by court order to work for the Indian Health Service. Although somewhat slow-going until the halfway mark, this increasingly evocative novel then picks up speed and acquires depth, spinning out an alcohol-soused tale of heartbreak, strained faith and sordid intrigue. Hassler ( Grand Opening ) beautifully limns each character, from the curmudgeonly parish housekeeper touched by a sweet and funny older priest, to a stepfather sick and selfish enough to heedlessly destroy two lives. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
Paperback - 518 pages - 978-0-345-41010-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-345-36911-6
Paperback - 670 pages - 978-0-8294-2357-0
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