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Plainsong by Kent Haruf
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Plainsong (1999)

by Kent Haruf

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Series: Plainsong (1)

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3,7881281,374 (3.98)394
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English (126)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
Interesting story line, not complex, picked because of the Colorado connection. But no quote marks for the dialogue is a real problem for ease of reading. ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
2.5 Stars rounded to 3

In Plainsong we are shown a picture of life in a Colorado ranching community. The novel focuses on the lives of teacher and his two young boys dealing with the loneliness after their mother leaves, two old cattle ranchers, and a teenage girl who is kicked out of her house when she discovers she is pregnant.

I suppose this story was supossed to be about life growing up in just such a small town, but to be honest I wasn't feeling it. The writing was terse and slow, almost plodding. one storyline involving the teacher, Tom Guthrie, was never wrapped up. I don't expect my books to be tied up in a pretty little bow at their end, but there was no rhyme or reason to not giving this storyline some sort of conclusion since so much time was spent on it. I also struggled to place when in time this book was set. it was published in 1999, and while the behavior of the teens in the book was consistent with that time-frame, the children Ike and Bobby and the McPherson brothers seemed out of place, as if they belonged to a much older era. I grew up in a Colorado ranching community, similar to this one, and was nearly the same age as the teenage girl Victoria at the time of publication, and I recognized nothing of my community in Haruf 's book. Not all experiences and towns are going to be identical, but there should have at least been some similarities.

This all sounds like I hated the book, but I did not. I just feel rather apathetic about it. I have heard so many good things about this author, and this book in particular, that I was certainly expecting more, even though I knew going in that it was a book in which nothing but life happens. Clearly Haruf is not for me, and I won't be seeking out his other books in the future ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
What a nice plain but lovely book. Not like what I normally read but I thorougly enjoyed it. I especially liked the parts concerning the teenage girl and the two bachelor farmers she goes to live with. ( )
  RachelNF | Jan 15, 2016 |
Plainsong – the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air

This definition perfectly describes this gentle, unassuming yet impactful novel. Haruf introduces us to several residents of the small town of Holt, Colorado: Tom Guthrie, a high school teacher struggling to raise his two young sons (Ike and Bobby, ages 9 and 10) after their mother leaves; Victoria Robideaux, a pregnant teenager forced to try to make it on her own; the McPheron brothers – Harold and Raymond – elderly bachelors working the family cattle ranch; and Maggie Jones a compassionate woman who helps weave a crazy quilt of characters into a sort of family.

With little in common but the realities of a hard life, these seven people hesitate to reach out to one another, but find comfort when they succeed. There are scenes of tenderness that took me by surprise – from the lonely old woman who recognizes the boys’ pain at losing their mother, to the way the bachelor brothers open their home and hearts to the youngest generation. And there are some violent scenes that had me nearly breathless with worry.

The prose is crisp and clean as the winter air in the Great Plains. The story is at once simple and profound. Haruf gives us a glimpse at the lives of these wonderful characters – lives full of wit, sorrow, happy surprises, poor choices, impetuous actions, and thoughtful responses. At the end, I am left wanting more.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
This is a novel about a small community in Colorado located in the eastern plains, the part that tends to be forgotten. Haruf populates the novel with characters that don't seem to have much in common, but who come together in the end as a community. The author's style may not be to everyone's taste: there is no flowery, gushing language here. However, I thought his efficient, plain style evoked the harshness of the eastern plains perfectly. The characters are well-developed, though Haruf's prose doesn't allow for much in the way of descriptions of their emotions. The attentive reader, however, will be able to figure out what they're feeling through their actions. If anything, I agree with the reviewer who noted that the characters were strong enough to withstand greater trials. Their problems are often resolved a bit too easily. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and liked its descriptions of Holt as a community: imperfect, but beautiful in so many ways. ( )
  lisamunro | Dec 11, 2015 |
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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
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:15 -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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