By Jon Hassler
Read July 2014
“Staggerford” is the first novel of the late Jon Hassler, a Minnesota writer who my mother recommended to me thirty years ago. Not for the first time, I wish I’d taken her advice. The novel is what I call a town book, a story that includes a large cast of characters in a particular place at a particular time with a variety of subplots that are all stitched together by a main character. The character in here is high school English teacher Miles Pruit, a 35-year-old bachelor who boards with a 60-something spinster who teaches at the local Catholic grammar school. The place is a small town in Minnesota near the Chippewa reservation, and the time is the 1970s as the American Indian Movement(AIM)took its first steps to regain the rights and sovereignty of native Americans and their lands. The story takes place over a single week, beginning the day before Halloween, as Miles settles in to another school year. For the most part, this is a quiet story about ordinary people living in a plain town, but Hassler’s superb characterization suggests that the most ordinary people may have extraordinary depth and the plainest town may pulse with the true stuff of life.