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Plainsong by Kent Haruf
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Plainsong (1999)

by Kent Haruf

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Plainsong (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5321101,497 (3.97)290
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» See also 290 mentions

English (108)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Beautifully written story about intersecting lives in a rural community set in Colorado. Haruf is a minimalist and uses sparce language to create three dimensional people in real situations. ( )
  KatherineGregg | Dec 1, 2014 |
If I could express myself as laconically as Kent Haruf, this review would already be over. Like Penelope Fitzgerald, Haruf says so much with so few words, yet never calls attention to the writing itself, gorgeous as it is. There is a plot here, and a compelling one, but the reason to pick up this novel is for the characters, the voice and the tone. You will not regret it. Unless you need lots and lots of words. Plainsong is all about the showing, and Haruf pulls back the curtain with extreme care. ( )
  SonjaYoerg | Oct 1, 2014 |
Why did it take me so long to get my hands on this book? I actually think I had it confused with another title, until some recent LibraryThing "buzz" caused me to take a closer look. And it was brilliant.

Plainsong is about the lives of ordinary people living in fictional Holt County, Colorado. Each short chapter focuses on one of the central characters, which include high school teacher Tom Guthrie, Tom's young sons Ike & Bobby, 17-year-old Victoria Robideaux, and the cattle-farming McPheron brothers. Everyone is dealing with the cards life has dealt them, both good and bad, and everyone seems to have a burden to carry, alone. But gradually, their lives intersect, those burdens become shared, and the world is a better place as a result.

Others have compared Kent Haruf's writing to Marilynne Robinson (author of Gilead and Home), whose work I also love. Both authors have a way of immersing the reader in a slow, quiet story with surprising emotional impact. And Haruf's setting and characterizations are marvelous. I could picture the town, and feel the cold winter wind whipping across the prairie. My heart went out to characters dealing with troublesome life events, and I wanted to hug the McPheron brothers as their lives became richer by caring for others. I'm glad there are two more books in this series, because I'd be happy to sit a spell in Holt County. ( )
7 vote lauralkeet | Oct 1, 2014 |
Despite enjoying this book very much, I find myself strangely without much to say about it. Haruf can sure write--his characters are alive and I can feel his descriptions, especially those of the land and the weather. Parts of the story are quite harsh and a little hard to get through, but boy, are they worth it. The lack of quotation marks annoyed me because it made me backtrack often to figure out if someone was still talking and because I couldn't figure out why they weren't there. I felt quite satisfied when I came to the end, in that way one should when one comes to the end of novel. I want to read more of (all of) Haruf's stuff. ( )
1 vote lycomayflower | Sep 7, 2014 |
This book is an emotional roller coaster. A beautifully executed, perfectly developed storm of every emotion you have within you. Tears, laughter, anger, frustration, joy, throughout this book you will feel them all. You will fall in love with these people, their community, their trials and celebrations. Exquisite. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kent Harufprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vosmaer, MartineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Plainsong - the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air
Dedication
For Cathy And in memory of Louis and Eleanor Haruf
First words
Here was this man Tom Guthrie in Holt standing at the back window in the kitchen of his house smoking cigarettes and looking out over the back lot where the sun was just coming up.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375705856, Paperback)

Plainsong, according to Kent Haruf's epigraph, is "any simple and unadorned melody or air." It's a perfect description of this lovely, rough-edged book, set on the very edge of the Colorado plains. Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher whose wife can't--or won't--get out of bed; the McPherons are two bachelor brothers who know little about the world beyond their farm gate; Victoria Roubideaux is a pregnant 17-year-old with no place to turn. Their lives parallel each other in much the same way any small-town lives would--until Maggie Jones, another teacher, makes them intersect. Even as she tries to draw Guthrie out of his black cloud, she sends Victoria to live with the two elderly McPheron brothers, who know far more about cattle than about teenage girls. Trying to console her when she think she's hurt her baby, the best lie they can come up with is this: "I knew of a heifer we had one time that was carrying a calf, and she got a length of fencewire down her some way and it never hurt her or the calf."

Holt, Colorado, is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone's business before that business even happens. In a way, that's true of the book, too. There's not a lot of suspense here, plotwise; you can see each narrative twist and turn coming several miles down the pike. What Plainsong has instead is note-perfect dialogue, surrounded by prose that's straightforward yet rich in particulars: "a woman walking a white lapdog on a piece of ribbon," glimpsed from a car window; the boys' mother, her face "as pale as schoolhouse chalk"; the smells of hay and manure, the variations of prairie light. Even the novel's larger questions are sized to a domestic scale. Will Guthrie find love? Will Victoria run away with the father of her baby? Will the McPherons learn to hold a conversation? But in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and Plainsong manages to capture nothing less than an entire world--fencing pliers, calf-pullers, and all. Kent Haruf has a gorgeous ear, and a knack for rendering the simple complex. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:39 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The interwoven lives of a community in Colorado. The characters include two cattle farmers who take in a girl, thrown out of her house for becoming pregnant. The novel describes the girl's impact on their lives, both men being bachelors.

» see all 4 descriptions

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