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Dear James

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  496 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
“Characters so exquisitely rendered that even a first-time visitor to Staggerford will come to love them as old friends.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A deliciously rich, simmering brew of envy, charity, and redemptive love.”
Publishers Weekly

“Old-fashioned storytelling at its best.”
Kirkus Reviews

Personal and public crises descend on Agatha McGee in her seventieth yea
Paperback, 600 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by Loyola Classics (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30)
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Joy H.
Added 5/9/11.
3/27/14 - I finally finished reading this book.

This story was unevenly paced. Part of it drew me in but the other part annoyed me and lowered my interest.

The idea of a (view spoiler) can be intriguing, However, the author, Hassler, tends to include too many incidental and unimportant facts. At times I found that maddening. The author likes to tell the life details of too many uninteresting people. Below is an exam
Dec 30, 2007 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A small town, an elderly lady, a penpal. Sounds like an idyllic plot. Until our main character decides she would like to meet her penpal. Minnesota author.
Feb 08, 2013 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Staggerford, Minn., senior citizen Agatha McGee takes the stage again (third time) in Jon Hassler's "Dear James," and this time the sometimes set-in-her-ways spinster's life has taken a tumultuous turn, and she's not sure what to do with herself.

She's a teacher no more, feeling useless and down in the dumps since her school was closed. She's still writing to her Irish priest-friend Father James O'Hannon; she's just not mailing them. Agatha still is stinging after finding out, in Hassler's earlie
Nov 07, 2010 Catherine rated it really liked it
Dear James, by Jon Hassler is best read after reading Staggerford and A Gree Journey, at least the latter. It is the story of an elderly single woman from Staggerford, a ficticious town in northern Minnesota. Miss McGee has been a Catholic school teacher and principal in the town and an influence on countless people, students and adults alike. In A Green Journey she takes a trip to Ireland with the intent of meeting a Catholic man she has become acquainted with through letters. She is dealt a hu ...more
Feb 27, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had finished reading my second Jon Hassler novel (the delightful "Simon's Night") before I realized that I had been reading "Catholic fiction." I thought I was reading "northern Minnesota fiction." What would my grandfathers have said? You start by reading Catholic fiction; next thing you know you're dating a Catholic girl. And we all know where THAT could lead.
"Dear James" is the most Catholic of the three Hassler novels I've read so far. Parts of it are set in Italy, and other parts are set
Aug 05, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
I started this 10 days ago and was reading it in tandem with How the Light Gets In. Hassler writes about small town Midwest (mostly Minnesota) people and he writes about them with affection, honesty, humor, and charm. I discovered his writing when my mother started reading him because he reminded so much of the people she knew growing up in a small Minn. town. This one involves Agatha McGee, parochial school teacher and principal, forced into retirement after 48 years because the bishop decides ...more
Jan 19, 2009 Karla rated it it was amazing
Agatha McGee, staunch Catholic school teacher and grande dame of small town Staggerford, is dismayed when her school is closed down. At age 70, with seemingly no purpose to her existence, she struggles with depression. Then she receives a letter from former penpal, James O'Hannan, begging her to reopen communication. She had broken off writing to James after traveling to Ireland three years previously to meet him, and discovered the man she had fallen in love with was a priest. In an effort to f ...more
Aug 07, 2010 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I feel churlish giving only two stars to such a hopeful, heartwarming novel, but I'm afraid that for me it just started to cloy. The thread of plot was very slight, other than detailing the difficulties of a hard year for 70-year-old Agatha McGee. The book seemed episodic, with sections that could be (and some actually were) excerpted for magazines, each with a source of tension spun out for a few dozen pages and then resolved, always with a burst of generosity and love. The "good" characters we ...more
Jun 01, 2014 Em rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fond-favorite
This is the 7th of Jon Hassler’s books I’ve read; a more apt word is devoured. I started on this book late in the day July 2, took it with me on the boat to watch the fireworks display that evening and yesterday couldn’t put it down at all. It’s the continuation of the characters first brought to life in ‘Green Journey’ – Agatha, the elderly spinster Catholic school teacher and James the elderly Irish Catholic priest and their strong (and quite pure) love and devotion to each other. Plus Hassler ...more
Dec 23, 2010 Gwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first time reading Jon Hassler and what a joy it was. Before even reading comments of others I had decided that he was spot on with his characters and just as "in the real world" you love things about them and sometimes find things about them irritating. It gave one pause to realize how a casual comment, made without malice, a listener may interpret it as judgmental and not know that it is tempered with love and friendship. It was so interesting the way that Hassler was able to get the story ...more
Nov 22, 2014 Hope rated it liked it
Shelves: light-reading
Have you ever read a book whose characters were so real that after you finished it you kept wondering for days how they were doing? Jon Hassler’s Agatha McGee is one of those characters. I enjoyed getting to know her in Green Journey and was anxious to become reacquainted in Dear James, a sequel that takes place three years later.

I didn’t like it as well as the first one because of some of the side stories, but I was heartened to find Agatha unchanged and as stalwart as ever. In the first book s
Nov 07, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
I heard of this author when he died last year (?) and have been reading his books since. Hassler writes about ordinary people in mid-Minnesota with humor and melancholy. I prefer his books to those of Garrison Keilor - the humor is more subtle and characters better-developed.
This book is quite poignant and details the friendship between a spinster teacher and a Catholic priest. I don't know if Hassler was Catholic, but he seems to have a great respect for, as well as knowledge of the challenges
Rachel Crooks
Jan 31, 2011 Rachel Crooks rated it really liked it
Who knew that a seventy-something spinster, former Catholic school teacher, could be such an interesting and complex character? Agatha is one of those characters that you feel you know from somewhere, and then you read a book about her and find out that there is so much more to know. i read this book in the last few days of Christmas vacation and found those days more warm, more insightful, because of what I found here.
Nov 20, 2013 Roberta rated it it was ok
I was looking for a Thanksgiving book and I thought I would like this book from the description I had read. I wanted to like it and I sort of did, but it just went on too long and I couldn't sustain my interest in it. Plus, it can't really be called a Thanksgiving book even though it begins at Thanksgiving. The holiday is a very small part of this story.

It's a story of love, deceit, betrayal, and forgiveness. If I went into all of that, my review would be as long as the book.
Apr 29, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
After reading STAGGERFORD, I couldn't wait to read another of Jon Hassler's books! I really liked this one, too, but didn't laugh aloud as often as I did when reading STAGGERFORD. It's fun to read about this fictitious town which is geometrically very close to where I live in Minnesota. Familiar actual towns are named--Bemidji (where I live), Crookston (where I used to live), International Falls, Duluth, and others. I'm looking forward to more good reads from Mr. Hassler.
Jun 05, 2011 Lyn rated it really liked it
A very satisfying novel, as the relationship between Agnes McGee and James O'Hannon is rekindled and becomes a very real part of their lives. Also, Agnes' critical nature is more exposed than ever, and then is ultimately tempered by her friendship with James. One of the best Hassler books, which goes further with many Staggerford characters and makes them feel very real.
Aug 12, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was completely different than most books I read but I'm glad I picked it up. I enjoyed Hassler's writing style. Coming from a small town in Minnesota, I liked how Hassler portrayed life in a small town with its pros and its cons.
Jul 26, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
This is the 3rd book I've read by Hassler and I couldn't put it down. Some of the most well-developed characters I've come across. Reminded me of the small town I grew up in and some of the issues encountered there
I enjoyed this book, though the ending was not quite what I expected. Life lessons abound, we all can learn about life, especially life in a small town, from these characters. I'm going to pass it on for others to read.
Mar 06, 2010 Jo rated it really liked it
If books could be considered comfort food this one would be mom's macaroni and cheese.An unsentimental novel filled with the same characters that were in A Green Journey. It is really like reading Part 2. If you liked the first book you'll enjoy this one too.
Victoria Murata
Mar 30, 2014 Victoria Murata rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the character of retired teacher Agatha McGee so much in Staggerford, so I was glad to follow her in this novel, set again in Staggerford MN, but also in Italy and Ireland.
This was a really good read!
Hassler is one of my favorites
Jul 03, 2010 Debbie rated it really liked it
Not as good a A Green Journey, but still a look at small town characters that are, mostly, neither good or bad, but some of both, including Agatha.
Jul 27, 2008 Melle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Minnesotans
Shelves: minnesota
Agatha McGee unwittingly becomes the subject of small town gossip due to her intimate letters with James O'Hannon.
Feb 04, 2008 Beth rated it liked it
1990's Minnesota, long novel about life in a small town, with a Cathlolic bent. Interesting, well written, didn't blow me away.
Dec 22, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing
Aug 04, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best books I've ever read! Be sure to read A Green Journey first as this novel expands and continues the story. Delightful!
Eileen Engel
Jun 21, 2014 Eileen Engel rated it it was ok
boring ending
Steve Gathje
Dec 21, 2013 Steve Gathje rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Another Agatha McGee story!
Julia Harrell
Jun 27, 2011 Julia Harrell rated it liked it
Nice story, easy read. Makes me want to go to Assisi.
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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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