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Staggerford

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,066 ratings  ·  110 reviews
"A writer good enough to restore your faith in fiction."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
It is only a week in the life of a 35-year old bachelor school teacher in a small Minnesota town. But it is an extraodinary week, filled with the poetry of living, the sweetness of expectation, and the glory of surprise that can change a life forever....
"Absolutely smashing....An altogether successfu...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published June 23rd 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1977)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,509)
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Malaya
The worlds Jon Hassler paints are ugly. Something in me recoils from the unprettiness of the scenery - the messiness of the characters' lives. Jane Austen, on the other hand, enthralls me. Her worlds are succinct, neat, tidy orderly. Even the chaos in her novels is well-framed by virtue, and never becomes too unhinged. In contrast, Hassler plays with the dark side of each mind. You never are allowed fully to escape from the fact of chaos. The situations in this book are - messy. The main charact...more
Barry
Somewhere North of the Twin Cities and probably not too far from Lake Wobegone is John Hassler’s fictitious town of Staggerford, Minn.

At the center of Staggerford is one Miles Pruitt, a thirty-something, overweight school teacher. He’s also one of the better and more believable characters I’ve come across in some time. Pruitt is a live-and-let-live sort who rents a room in town, laments the loss of his childhood love to his older brother, and is currently in love with his boss’s wife. But what c...more
Scott D.
My description of this novel: A week in the life of small-town high school teacher Miles Pruitt. There wasn't a fast moving plot. In fact, I'd have trouble explaining what the plot actually was. The only thing that seemed to push this novel forward was time itself.

I enjoyed it immensely, right up until the ending. I thought about it for a couple of days but am unable to convince myself that this ending isn't out of place or that it has a larger worthwhile point.

Yet, like I said, I really liked...more
Keith
This is more of a confession than a review. A few weeks ago I was overnighting with my next-of-kin, and I had trouble sleeping. So I went out into the basement living space and curled up on the sofa with a book called "Staggerford" by Jon Hassler that I found on a bookshelf in another room. I had read Hassler before, but never any of the Staggerford stuff. I was intrigued. And when I packed up to leave next morning, I packed up Staggerford and too it along. Without asking. It came to me as I rea...more
Barbara Brien
I would characterize this novel as a (then: 1974) modern day tragedy. I kept imagining how it would be rewritten today. The writing was fine, but the book truly embraced the time in which it was written, and much of the subject matter no longer applies today. On the other hand, some of the subject matter was timeless, and one of the passages spoke to me.

Nadine said, "I think Gone With the Wind has the stupidest ending I've ever read."
"Oh, no. It's inspiring. 'Tomorrow is another day,' says Sc
...more
Cheryl
I liked (but don't remember well and could read again) A Green Journey. The library has a few Hassler books, but not this, the first placed in this town. A teacher in small-town MN - come on, I gotta read it.

------------

Eww.... More like Winesburg, Ohio, than Lake Woebegone - but not as well written as either. I did grow up in a town like Staggerford, and still go back to visit every few years - but we are much nicer, and more sane. There's no joy, no wisdom, and very little hope in this book. T...more
Nancy
Found this at a book giveaway, and read it for the second time after maybe 35 years. I've given it 5 stars not necessarily for literary merit, but because it has stayed in my mind as a favorite book for all this time, and I still chuckled out loud at Miles' descriptions of faculty meetings, costume parties, small town personalities, etc., and ached at the tragedies involved.
Tim
I feel a little guilty giving Jon Hassler's debut only four stars. I suppose the knockdown from five is for scale. Yeah, it's a small novel in some ways, but this tale of a week in the life of a bachelor school teacher and other small-town Midwesterners is by turns funny as hell and quite moving. Regional writing doesn't get a whole lot better. For me, Hassler finds just the right mix of darkness and light in the hearts of his characters, and as his first venture into 10-plus novels of the explo...more
Mmars
Funny. I read this when I was in my early 20s and Miles Pruett seemed like an old man, skimming reviews and I now realize he's only in his mid-30s & young! This is another small town book that I loved. Found it a fast and amusing read. Hassler knows rural Minnesota well & his characters are true, perhaps a bit exaggerated or quirky, but still loveable on the edges. If you've ever spent time in the northern half of Minnesota you've known these people. Nosy, yet guarded. Conservative on th...more
Elizabeth
The story of a week in the life of a thirty-five year old school teacher in the small town of Staggerford, Minnesota. The New York Times said, "A writer good enough to restore your faith in fiction." That's what got me to read this book. It's an old book. It's been around a few decades, so your sure to find it on your library's shelves. This was a book filled with rich descriptions, hilarious scenarios, and an engrossing story. I don't want to give away too much, but if you want a great read, yo...more
Jane Mackay
Going to send this to a good friend who's a high school English teacher when I've finished it. She has been in my mind the whole time I've been reading and sometimes I've laughed aloud at the thought of how hard she'll laugh at some of the passages describing the protagonist's life as a high school English teacher. She will *so* relate!

Great book. Thoroughly enjoying it. Thinking of putting Jon Hassler on my "read anything by this author" list.
Carolyn
Another small town epistle about a 35 year old bachelor. The people were like good old friends and the relationship of the town with the local Indians shows our ineptness of understanding and using the proper tools to navigate all types of personalities. The role of Agatha McGee as landlady and support of the protagonist, Miles is beautifully written. You grow to admire the rich spirit held by these two people. Thanatopsis also is someone you would just love to have as a friend as well as Beverl...more
Rufusgermanicus Meelberg
This book was, and will always remain, the first experience I can remember as an "adult" with horrible writing. I was assigned it in advanced English, though why it should be considered appropriate for such a course is beyond me. I was told mostly that we were reading it because Hassler was a rarity in Minnesota, a successful native author. Well apparently, F. Scott Fitzgerald he wasn't. This book, set in a small Minnesota town, as all Hassler books are, is abysmally shoddy. Firstly, let's deal...more
Patti
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sandy
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El
I'm often drawn to books about people, often living in small towns, whose lives are bigger than may seem to the eye of the casual observer. And while I'm drawn to them I'm also often disappointed (Sherwood Anderson, anyone?) and like I could do better (well, duh...). Staggerford is one of those books.

On the outside it has great potential. Miles Pruitt is a 35-year-old teacher in Staggerford, Minnesota, a small town with a supposedly big heart, if you can just get past the neuroses of the charact...more
John
This was the fourth Jon Hassler novel I read but the first he wrote. In it, he introduces us to Staggerford, a northern Minnesota town that we discover is a two-hour drive from Duluth. It appears at first blush to be a dull town full of dull people, and "Staggerford" the book is dull in places as well. But we learn that there is more to the people, and the novel, than at first meets the eye.
My favorite among these people is Miss Agatha McGee, who like me is a traditionalist. She is a Catholic sc...more
Lianne
Jul 13, 2011 Lianne added it
Don't know how it happened but I've never previously encountered any of Jon Hassler's series about Staggerford, a Minnesota town not unlike Lake Wobegon. This is the first of the series published in 1974. Its major character is Miles, a thirty-five year old high school teacher who is in love with his boss's wife and settling into bachelorhood. The plot covers an eventful week in the life of the school. Miles boards with a semi retired parochial school teacher, named Miss Mc Gee, who becomes an u...more
Matthew
This is Hassler's first book, and an interesting one. I enjoyed it, but am torn between 3 and 4 stars.

It takes place over 6 or 7 days in Staggerford, a small town I believe to be in Western or Northern Minnesota. Its a nice town, but full of all the troubles of the 70's. The story revolves around the hometown high school english teacher.

It starts very slowly, with the pace of a portait painter from before the camera era. By the third day you start to care for the characters and by late in the f...more
Spiros
Apr 14, 2011 Spiros rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those in search of an amiable book
Recommended to Spiros by: Hungry George
Shelves: bookhouse
An amiable book. I know nothing of the author, Jon Hassler; but on the evidence of this novel, I am willing to postulate an English Literature major, who focused on Trollope. He certainly likes to give each of his characters longwinded speeches, some of which, particularly those of the the officious and ineffectual school principal, Wayne Workman, are quite amusing. This novel came out in 1974 but, aside from references to the American Indian Movement, and boys with long hair, it lacks any '70's...more
Amanda
A quiet, slow-paged book. It goes along for chapter after chapter of meticulous description of the lives of the people that live in the small town of Staggerford.
I do not want to spoil this book for anyone so I won't say too much. Just that the writing is beautiful and you begin to care for the people of the community. They have small and ordinary lives but are interesting in their ordinariness. It makes the sudden surprise towards the end so shocking. I guess that's how these things are in real...more
Marne
It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did I was hooked and finished it quickly. Although the setting in the mid-70's is just a little bit before my time, this book captured the nuances of small town life on the prairie very well. It reminded me very much of Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. I hear the later books Hassler wrote about Staggerford aren't up to quite the same level, but I'm willing to try more of his other writings in the future.
Daniel
Life in rural Minnesota is explored for one week, focusing on the events happening to one high school English teacher.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, it had a sense of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon. If it never achieved the status of Lake Wobegon mythos, it's because the writing is just slightly uneven -- enough to prevent it from reaching best-seller status.

It's also quite possible that I enjoyed this more because I live in a small town, not un-like Staggerford, and was able to identify...more
Victoria Murata
I liked this book. the writing is good, and I could identify with the problems of a teacher in a small Minnesota town.
Geo Forman
A middle age high school teacher is the main character. He has lead a disappointing personal life, never married and boarding with his a spinster who teaches elementary school at his old Catholic school. A practical person, well liked, ends up in messes he would rather avoid. A surprise ending compells the reader to search out subsequent books, especially those featuring Miss McGee, the parochial school teacher, who still recites her parts in the mass in latin because that's the way it should be...more
Bayneeta
Re-read for a book discussion, and I'm happy to say it held up on the second reading. Great characters ranging from high school students to senior citizens, interesting small town (northern Minnesota) locale. Miles Pruitt is 35, teaches English at the Staggerford High School, is in love with the home ec teacher who happens to be married to the principal, rents a room from Agatha McGee who teaches 6th grade at the local Catholic grade school, and has an ambiguous relationship with the local libra...more
Theresa
Apr 02, 2013 Theresa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like Oprah books
Staggerford begins with a wonderful description of an ordinary day for Miles Pruitt, a high-school English teacher. Hassled handles the ordinary with sympathy and a touch of humor. But the plot strays from the ordinary. Not quite over-the-top, but enough to lose some of my buy-in, both in terms sympathy and believing.
The departure from ordinary was in the direction of ugly,like the white-trash genre of fiction. It isn't quite in that genre, but it is unfortunately close. If it had been written 2...more
Lkp
Jul 12, 2008 Lkp rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers.
Recommended to Lkp by: found in the donation pile.
Though set in the 1970s, this could certainly fit in with life today. Best for teachers, especially male Language Arts, who get very involved in the lives of their students. I kept thinking this should be required reading for those folks. The small-town depiction and the gentle kindness of the main character is well described. For a first novel, it was pretty compelling. Though I suspected the ending, it didn't come to me until late in the story. I found this in a donation pile and was very plea...more
Jmswtsn
This book turned out to be better than the first 200 pages lead me to believe. I kept wondering "what's the point of this story", but the major event later in the story made me realize how much I had actually invested in the story, how much I identified with the characters, how everything leading up to the event was important, and how unexpected (to me) the big event was.

Ohh, and also a sort of resolved, but mostly unresolved ending (such as happens in real life) was also nice.
Janet
This was a pretty good book. I was sitting across from the head of Non-Fiction/Reference today when I suddenly blurt out “Holy s**t!” She didn’t even blink. Must be used to me. This book plods along for the first two hundred pages and then does a complete 180. It’s almost like two different authors wrote it. I don’t want to go into detail here, but let’s just say the ending comes completely out of left field. I had to read it twice to make sure I didn’t misunderstand something.
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Jon Hassler was born in Minneapolis, but spent his formative years in the small Minnesota towns of Staples and Plainview, where he graduated from high school. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from St. John's University in 1955. While teaching English at three different Minnesota high schools, he received his Master of Arts degree in English from the University of North Dakota in...more
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