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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
3,4631051,542 (3.97)259
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» See also 259 mentions

English (103)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (105)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
This is one of the leanest and most satisfying pieces of fiction writing that I've read in some time. The book seems simple, yet, at the same time, several story lines wind themselves together as the different characters realize how much they need one another. The central story of the two withdrawn brothers working their isolated farm and taking in a very troubled pregnant teenage girl is beautifully depicted. Nothing is easy, yet these two quiet men who have only shared each othe'rs company for decades soon come to need the girl's companionship as much as she needs them. This is a novel to own because you'll want to reread it. It's a real pleasure.

(5/01) ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 27, 2014 |
I had expected something a bit more uplifting than this book, which really dug into the lonely, harsh side of life in rural Colorado in some unspecified time which seemed to be the 1980s. ( )
  robinamelia | Jul 7, 2014 |
Only began reading two nights ago but this wet Saturday afternoon is the prime opportunity to get into this novel. Which I am.
  adrianburke | May 24, 2014 |
“They set out in the bright cold day, riding in the pickup, the girl seated in the middle between them with a blanket over her lap, with the old papers and sales receipts and fencing pliers and the hot wire testers and the dirty coffee mugs all sliding back and forth across the dashboard whenever they made any sharp turn, driving north toward Holt …” (178)

Plainsong is one of those rare gems that comes along unexpectedly and immediately connects, refusing to be put down. Sparely written, rich, and exquisite, it is evocative of the humanity which unites us – flawed but ultimately decent.

In Holt, Colorado, high school teacher, Tom Guthrie, lives with his young sons Ike and Bobby. His wife and the children’s mother has retreated from her family, isolating herself in a darkened spare room before finally leaving for Denver. Victoria Roubideaux, a pregnant teenager, has been banished her from home by her mother – perhaps as a punishment to her absent father. Maggie Jones, another of Holt’s high school teachers, takes Victoria in for a time; but her aging and demented father prevents the arrangement from being more than temporary. Unexpectedly, the teen will find home with the elderly McPheron brothers, Harold and Raymond, bachelor, gentlemen farmers. Haruf’s characters, relatable and unremarkable in and of themselves, are richer for their relationships with one another. And we are reminded that the notion of family is not limited to blood ties – sometimes, it is much, much more.

Haruf is a new favourite author for me! Those who appreciate spare, quiet prose and a story driven by characters and setting will enjoy Plainsong – think Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin. Most highly recommended!

“… the country flat and whitepatched with snow and the wheat stubble and the cornstalks sticking up blackly out of the frozen ground and the winter wheat showing in the fall-planted fields as green as jewelry. Once they saw a lone coyote in the open, running, a steady distance-covering lope, its long tail floating out behind like a trail of smoke. Then it spotted the pickup, stopped, started to move again, running hard now ..." (178) ( )
11 vote lit_chick | May 9, 2014 |
In the town of Holt, Colorado, a father and his two boys cope with his depressed wife living in bed and then moving out. An elderly woman reaches out to the two boys while they work on their paper route. A pregnant girl is kicked out of her mother's house and turns to a teacher for help. Two gruff brothers live outside town limits working hard raising cattle.

The story runs about nine months, weaving in and out of the various lives of these characters as they have joys and sorrows, heartbreak and love. It's a meandering, melancholy tale but it's not overly sad or depressing either. I didn't love the choice to forgo quotation marks when someone spoke, and it took awhile for the story to seep in but once it did I found myself caring very deeply about these characters and their lives. I especially loved the relationship that developed between the pregnant girl, Victoria, and the people who cared for her after she was thrown out. I supplemented my reading with the audio version when I was driving, and I really enjoyed Tom Stechschulte's performance. ( )
  bell7 | Apr 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (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.)
Disambiguation notice
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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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