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Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Plainsong (1999)

by Kent Haruf

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Plainsong (1)

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» See also 216 mentions

English (99)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
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 |
Plainsong is set in a small town in Colorado in the 80s. It focuses on a few different people in the town. Victoria is 17-years old and pregnant; her mother has thrown her out of the house. She ends up moving in with two old bachelor brothers, Raymond and Howard McPheron. Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher having trouble with one of his students. His wife has left him with two young boys to look after – 9- and 10-year olds Bobby and Ike.

It was really good. There was a real small-town feel to the book. I loved the McPheron brothers and the way they interacted with Victoria! ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 31, 2013 |
I don't often rank things according to goodreads 'hate, dislike, okay, like, really like' scale. I think books should be rated as good or bad; sue me. But this one... this one I couldn't resist. I liked it, okay? Yes, it's simplistic, goodies and baddies are signposted more effectively than in your average Captain America strip. Yes, it's kind of a morality tale. Yes, it borders on the hopelessly romantic. Yes, there are more analogies in the first chapter than I would usually allow in any roman a fleuve, let alone single volume novel. Yes, it reads kind of like Cormac McCarthy if he was really happy and content, and honestly? That's really freaking weird.

But... sometimes you just want to read something that's nicely written, that suggests there's a reason to have faith in anything, that aims for easily comprehensible structure and prose rather than whatever the most recent literary theory might be. This book is Friday Night Lights without football, with the same simple yet believable claim: hell is only other people when you're already hellbound. People will still read this long after all the tricky theory stuff has been out of print for years. That's not an unquestionable good, but I suspect it's a fact. ( )
2 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Plainsong tells the story of life in the small town of Holt, Colorado. I grew up in a small town and live in one currently. I'm fascinated by small town life, but I'm also very critical of books that don't get it quite right. Haruf gets it right. He tells the story from multiple perspectives, a high school teacher, his two sons, two bachelor farmers, and a pregnant high school student, to name a few. The storylines interweave and create a tapestry of small town life. The characters don't always make good decisions. They are not always likeable. But they are real. And there is the spark of hope and goodness that underlies even challenging situations. My favorite chapter was the one in which the two bachelor farmers take the pregnant high school student (who they've taken in) shopping for a crib. I was grinning through the whole thing.

This is a special book, told by someone who knows small towns and their residents, who understands their problems, but who sees the good deep inside. ( )
1 vote porch_reader | Dec 10, 2013 |
This was wonderful. ( )
  binadaat | Sep 27, 2013 |
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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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Plainsong - the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air
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.
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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 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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