My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finished: December 9, 2017
Sometimes in life you find yourself lost and alone. If you are fortunate, you get another chance. That second chance gives you a better appreciation of your luck. The old bachelor McPheron brothers played a secondary role in Plainsong – the first book in this series. The twins are the center of this book. They became ranchers of their place at 17 when their parents were killed. They’d been together ever since with no wives or girlfriends. Ranching is all they know. In Plainsong they take in an abandoned teen, Victoria Roubideaux. When Eventide picks up the story she is ready to move to Ft Collins for college. She will leave them more lonely than they were when she came into their lives: Raymond tells her
“‘We’re going to miss you too, he said. We’ll be about like old played-out workhorses once you’re gone. Standing around lonesome, always looking over the fence.'” [p 4]
Later Raymond and Victoria are talking on the phone when Victoria is feeling a little homesick. Raymond tells her how much his brother misses Victoria and her daughter
“and as he went on in this vein it was clear to the girl that he was talking as much about himself as he was his brother and she felt so moved by this knowledge she was afraid she was going to cry.” [p 43]
I admit I teared up at this. Haruf knows ranching; his set pieces are clear and dramatic. I love the chapter about the cattle auction with the brothers bringing their cattle in for sale and then sitting through all the auction waiting to see how well they will come out. In another scene they are separating the cows from their calves. It’s like we are there. Later, Tom Guthrie and his sons help out at the ranch and once the cattle are separated, one of the sons notes how the cows and calves, separated by a fence:
“They make an awful amount of noise, Ike said. They don’t seem to like it much.” [p 153] The father responded “they never do like it, he said. I can’t imagine anything or anybody that would like it. But every living thing in this world gets weaned eventually.” [p 153]
This theme of loneliness reaches every part of the story; even cows and calves end up alone. Raymond and Harold were the best part of the excellent Plainsong; they get a thorough treatment in this book. Sometimes in fiction you have various characters who all sound the same – not here. They have a collective distinctive voice (if that makes sense) sounding nothing like the other characters in the book. All the characters are distinct. Similar to Plainsong we follow different families in snapshot fashion as they work their ways through problems. It opens with two ineffective parents trying to manage life while being beset and overmatched by their relative Hoyt. There is also DJ a middle school student taking care of his grandfather; and the neighbor girl he bonds with. I can’t say more without revealing too much.
The book was a bit slow the first few pages as we are dropped into these lives with little in the way of introduction. But once Haruf gets out on the ranch with the McPheron brothers I was hooked. I read all but the first 30 pages in one day – I sat in my chair and read; took a break for lunch, then read some ore; later tore myself away to swim some laps but came right back to read more; then we had to take a break to have dinner with friends. Finally I got back home and read until I finished about midnight. Without being extensively plot driven, this is an exquisite book with realistic characters dealing with what life doles out. I love this book; it takes me back to Terms of Endearment which I read in the early 1980s. I count that novel as one of the best/favorite books I’ve ever read; Eventide matches it. Come for the McPheron brothers and stay for the whole story. Read it.