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Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as a "writer good enough to restore your faith in fiction," Jon Hassler has established himself as a contemporary literary master.  With North of Hope, he surpasses his own previous work, both in scope and itensity.  Set in the scrubby, jackpine-speckled landscape of northern Minnesota -- a place that will have a profount effect on the characters' lives -- this beautifully written, deeply moving novel is the crowning achievement of an already distinguished career. 

After more than twenty years in the priesthood, Father Frank Healy is going home.  Emulating the hero of his youth, a nineteenth-century missionary named Father Zell, Frank is bring Catholicism to the Ojibway Indians living on the Basswood reservation in the north woods.  But what Father Healy finds when he arrives at the battered Church of Our Lady are very few believers and a woman from his past -- the woman from his past -- whom he thought he'd never see again.   

Frank thought Libby Girard more beautiful than Jennifer Jones when he first laid eyes on here in the Royal movie theater in 1949.  In the intervening years, Libby has been chasing after the happy family life she never had in her violent childhood home, and here search for love has borne bitter fruit; a crumbling marriage to a doctor named Tom Pearsall and her daughter Verna, a wild young woman with a long history of crippling mental illness.

It is clear to Frank that Libby's life is unraveling.  And as she slowly becomes dependent on him, the lives around them erupt in a tangle of drugs and despair, alcoholism and death.

In North of Hope, Jon Hassler has written with great sensitvity about the divinity of the human spirit, and how faith can ennoble the most hopeless life.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer has proclaimed Hassler "one of America's most completely satisying novelists," and North of Hope is his most completely satisying, and thoroughly realized novel.

 

 

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Last modified: October 19, 2002