My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finished: September 23, 2017
My favorite book of the past few years. Kent Haruf has written a stunning character study of a group of loosely related people in the small town of Holt, Colorado. The story follows the lives of a father and his two sons as they deal with their wife/mother drifting away from them; a struggling teenage girl kicked out of her house; and two elderly bachelor farmers.
There is a bit of plot tying the narrative together but for the most part it is a study of relationships and the fierce unforgiving world of the plains. The authors writing is breathtaking with beautiful descriptions of the world: “But the air was turning sharp, with a fall feeling of loneliness coming.” [p 27] Coming early in the story this line sets the tone.
Everyone has struggles: “The girl looked tired ands sad, the blanket wrapped about her shoulders as though she were some survivor of a train wreck of flood, the sad remnant from some disaster that had passed through and done its damage and gone on.” [p 31]
But there is also plenty of wry humor; I love his descriptions of the elderly brothers which sets the stage for their characters: “They looked as stiff and motionless as if they’d been shaped out of plaster and then stood up on the porch like two lifelike statues of minor saints.” [p 117]
This novel is full of realistic people struggling to find rewarding relationships in an otherwise lonely world. It is beautifully written. It’s difficult to provide some of the later beautiful passages without spoiling the plot.
I just love this book, which was a National Book Award Finalist. Just before stumbling across it, I felt as though I’d exhausted my modern fiction mine; but discovering Kent Haruf has written at least five other novels I feel like I’ve hit a vein of gold. Even better, Plainsong is the first of a three book series; I can hardly wait to dive into Eventide and Benediction.