Dear James

Jon Hassler, Author Ballantine Books $21 (438p) ISBN 978-0-345-37707-4
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. ( May )
Reviewed on: 03/29/1993
Release date: 04/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-0-345-41013-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-345-37708-1
Paperback - 587 pages - 978-0-8294-2430-0
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