Chronicles of a Radical Hag
By Lorna Landvik
Published March 2019 by Minnesota Press
The curmudgeon who wrote the column “Ramblin’s by Walt” in the Granite Creek Gazette dismissed his successor as “puking on paper.” But when Haze Evans first appeared in the small-town newspaper, she earned fans by writing a story about her bachelor uncle who brought a Queen of the Rodeo to Thanksgiving dinner. Now, fifty years later, when the beloved columnist suffers a massive stroke and falls into a coma, publisher Susan McGrath fills the void (temporarily, she hopes) with Haze’s past columns, along with the occasional reprinted responses from readers. Most letters were favorable, although Haze did have her trolls; one Joseph Snell in particular dubbed her “liberal” ideas the “chronicles of a radical hag.” Never censoring herself, Haze chose to mollify her critics with homey recipes—recognizing, in her constantly practical approach to the world and her community, that buttery Almond Crescents will certainly “melt away any misdirected anger.” Framed by news stories of half a century and annotated with the town’s chorus of voices, Haze’s story unfolds, as do those of others touched by the Granite Creek Gazette, including Susan, struggling with her troubled marriage, and her teenage son Sam, who—much to his surprise—enjoys his summer job reading the paper archives and discovers secrets that have been locked in the files for decades, along with sad and surprising truths about Haze’s past. With her customary warmth and wit, Lorna Landvik summons a lifetime at once lost and recovered, a complicated past that speaks with knowing eloquence to a confused present. Her topical but timeless Chronicles of a Radical Hag reminds us—sometimes with a subtle touch, sometimes with gobsmacking humor—of the power of words and of silence, as well as the wonder of finding in each other what we never even knew we were missing.
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What first caught my eye with this Chronicles of a Radical Hag was the really awesome cover. I absolutely love the cover.
The story centers around Haze Evans, who is currently in the hospital after having suffered a stroke. She has written for the Gazette for approximately 50 years, and the staff decide to re-run her columns during the time she’s in the hospital with the hopes she’ll recover and return to writing.
There are a wide variety of characters in the story, my favorite being Sam, the 14 year old son of the editor of the Gazette. Although a part of me felt he was a bit too unrealistic as a teenager. However, that didn’t deter me from adoring his character.
The story switches between Haze’s columns and all the characters. The switching between the two felt choppy to me. It was jarring to switch from the columns to figure out which character and timeframe I was in. A lot of times I’d have to stop and re-read to orient myself with where and who I was reading about.
That said, the coolest aspect of this book to me was the historical events that Haze had written about in her news articles. Spanning 50 years, we covered a lot of events in the book, which I thought was really cool.
Haze is also a feminist, and she shares a quite liberal view of politics, which I really appreciated.
Overall, I thought this was a good read. I felt like loose ends were tied up neatly in the book and I wasn’t left with questions (which is always awesome).
If you’re looking for a feminist read with historical elements, I definitely recommend Chronicles of a Radical Hag!