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Ebook Grand Opening by Jon Hassler read! Book Title: Grand Opening
The author of the book: Jon Hassler
Language: English
Date of issue: August 27th 1996
ISBN: 0345410173
ISBN 13: 9780345410177
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 4.42 MB
Edition: Ballantine Books

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I can't improve in regard to describing Jon Hassler on the Tulsa World's review shown on the back cover of "Grand Opening": "This is Sinclair Lewis without the deep, deep bitterness." I'd also contribute: he's like a Midwestern Richard Russo (based on my tiny sample of one Russo) or Robert Inman ("Home Fires Burning" actually shares a lot of similarities). Maybe Jan Karon's Mitford series or Garrison Keillor, so I've heard (I haven't actually read either author, so what do I know?)

Well, what I do know is that "Grand Opening" is another sharp winner (3.5 stars, really) from this chronicler of small-town Minnesota. Hassler respects his characters, tints his humor with humanity and realism, not sarcasm; the dramatic or tragic turns his novels sometimes take do not descend into melodrama. I've been reading Hassler in chronological order of publication (this is the fifth) though there's little reason for this other than to watch the growth of the recurring characters from his Staggerford novels, of which this is not one. Interestingly, Hassler dips way out of time for this one; I think "Grand Opening" is the lone Hassler book set in a far earlier time — 1944, to be exact.

Here, it's a year in the life of a family. The Fosters — husband Hank (barely too old for the war), wife Catherine, 12-year-old son Brendan, a grandfather losing his mental grip — pull up stakes from the big city, Minneapolis, and plant themselves in small-town Plum, Minn. Hank has bought a ramshackle building that housed a failed grocery, hoping to make Plum a two-grocery-store town again with a new and improved business. The Fosters find the small town a tough nut to crack. They find resistance, gossip, Lutheran/Catholic tugs of war (the Fosters are Catholic), and the ingrained prejudices that can only come from people who know everyone in town and long ago formed opinions about them. Catherine, especially, has trouble adapting: "It occurred to Catherine that getting acquainted in Plum was like learning your way through a zoo — an odd new specimen at every turn, vertebrates like yourself but not the kind you can communicate with." And Catherine says: "Before I state a simple fact to Gordy, I have to stop and think what church Gordy goes to and what effect it will have on our income. Before I get dressed in the morning I have to think what effect my clothes will have on Mrs. Brask."

Hassler, as usual, is adept at integrating secondary characters. Wallace Flint, whom the Fosters employ at the store, is a mid-20s man not in the war because of his epilepsy (though he tries to join up later), an odd man prone to jealousies and whose heart is darker than the Fosters suspect. Then there's Dodger Hicks, a gangly misfit, a born thief with a troubled family life, shunned by other kids, abandoned by Brendan when he sees how unliked Dodger is. Hassler really outdoes himself with Dodger, whose travails become ever more central to the tale until he very nearly becomes the main character. I think Hassler overplayed his hand just slightly here as Dodger takes over the tale for a little bit, but it all pays off handsomely.

Hassler leavens this story with less humor than usual, but the Fosters' struggle for acceptance and success is involving enough that you don't miss it.

Hassler really was one of the underappreciated treasures of American writing. I say was; Hassler, sadly, died in March 2008. The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that he was twice invited to the White House by a fan, Hillary Clinton. Its obit goes on, "He battled progressive supranuclear palsy for almost 15 years, a rare brain disorder that slowly stole his ability to write by hand, to speak or see clearly and, finally, to walk. But, fueled by sheer force of will and the love and support of his wife, he devised ways to keep at it."

Hassler knew about small-town struggles and small-town hearts. He loved these people, even with their failings. You know with Hassler you're getting a moving, interesting slice of everyday life. His novels have familiar touchstones, but he always seemed able to put a different spin on things and produce an original story each time out. Among his first five novels for adults (I still think "Staggerford," the first, is the best), there's no feeling that you've been there before, even if you sort of have, even if these people have sort of been inside you all along.

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Ebook Grand Opening read Online! 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 1960. He continued to teach at the high school level until 1965, when he began his collegiate teaching career: first at Bemidji State University, then Brainerd Community College (now called Central Lakes College), and finally at Saint John's, where he became the Writer-in-Residence in 1980.

During his high-school teaching years, Hassler married and fathered three children. His first marriage lasted 25 years. He had two more marriages; the last was to Gretchen Kresl Hassler.

In 1994, Hassler was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a disease similar to Parkinson's. It caused vision and speech problems, as well as difficulty walking, but he was able to continue writing. He was reported to have finished a novel just days before his death. Hassler died in 2008, at the age of 74, at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.[1]

The Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview, Minnesota, is named for him.


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