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What Faulkner did for his imaginary Yoknapatawpha County, Jon Hassler has
done for a place called Staggerford. Wholly believable and fully peopled, often
snowbound and teeming with pent-up life, his small Minnesota town and its
inhabitants are among Hassler's most popular fictional creations. In this warm,
uplifting, wryly humorous novel, the town's moral conscience, Miss Agatha McGee,
takes the entire population on an adventure of truthfulness, charity, and
forgiveness that no Staggerfordian no reader--will soon forget.
Dear James, she wrote in blue ink on a page of cream stationery.
It's been snowing all night and my lawn lies deeply buried. There's a round cap of snow on my birdbath, and all I can see of my wheelbarrow is the black rubber handle grips poking out of a mound of white. The snow was a foot deep when I got out of bed, and now at noon it's closer to two. I should have thought to put away the wheelbarrow. My garden hose lies buried until spring.
Agatha McGee wrote these lines at her desk in the sun room, a small room facing south off her dining room. The blanched, unforgiving light falling through the eight close-set windows gave her forearm a chalky appearance as she pushed up the sleeve of her sweater to massage her arthritic right elbow.
Again this year Lillian and I are having a few lonely-hearts in for Thanksgiving--a holiday foreign to you? Lord knows I'm in no mood for entertaining, but I will put on my best hostess face and proceed, not only for Lillian's sake and the others' but also because as far back as I can remember, wisely or unwisely, I've striven to be predictable. Changeableness I've always equated with infancy or a disordered mind.
Agatha carefully blotted her spiky handwriting and turned the page of stationery face down as Lillian Kite, her lifelong friend, neighbor, and culinary advisor, approached from the kitchen, where both of them spent most of the morning. Lillian was a stout, red-faced woman of seventy years--Agatha's age exactly. Buttoning her quilted down coat tight to her throat, she came to a halt besides Agatha's desk and said, "I turned the oven way down and put the deviled eggs in the refrigerator. I'm going home and put on my party dress."
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