Grand Opening (1987)

by Jon Hassler

Jon Hassler is known for writing heart-warming novels, but darkness is mixed with sentimentality in his fifth novel, Grand Opening. The Fosters — Hank, Catherine, son Brendan, and Catherine’s father — are moving from Minneapolis to little Plum, Minnesota, to run a grocery store they bought on the cheap. They dream of becoming not only successful merchants but also homeowners.

Plum in 1944 fits the small-minded small-town stereotype. There is religious tension between Catholics and Lutherans, who each make about about half the population. Lutherans stay away from the Fosters’ store because the Fosters are Catholic. Catherine is the target of gossip. Brendan feels he has to choose between popularity and being kind to a misfit whom other students shun. The misanthrope who worked for the previous owners finagles his way into continued employment, with bad consequences.

Though their circumstances improve by the conclusion, the Fosters are no long pursuing their original dream. This is not a book that will make you long for the good old days


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