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Plainsong by Kent Haruf
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Plainsong (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Kent Haruf

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4,4761611,587 (4)551
Member:AprilBurk
Title:Plainsong
Authors:Kent Haruf
Info:Vintage (2000), Edition: 3rd, Paperback, 301 pages
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Plainsong by Kent Haruf (1999)

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» See also 551 mentions

English (152)  Italian (5)  Finnish (1)  Piratical (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 152 (next | show all)
Small towns anywhere, in this case Colorado, all have characters, each with their own hum. Put them all together, and the Gregorian Chant begins to emerge. The two young brothers morph into the two elderly brothers. Will the young teenage mother morph into her own mother with broken dreams?

This is book 1 of a trilogy. I hesitate to read the second because of my fear of disappointment. Eventually I will.

Stechschulte does a good job with multiple voices. ( )
  kaulsu | Dec 11, 2018 |
Plainsong. Kent Haruf. 1999. Oh, my goodness! What a book! And to think it has been sitting on my-to-be-read shelf for several years. What a waste. Haruf slowly unveils the soul of a small Colorado town as he relates the inter-related stories of some its inhabitants: two lonely brother bachelors who take it a lonely pregnant girl; the depressed mother of two little boys; the boys’ father; a bully and his ignorant parents; and the pregnant girl. The prose is sparse, but perfect, and we are drawn into the characters lives as if we knew them, and we do know them by the end of the novel. I hated for it to end. ( )
  judithrs | Nov 16, 2018 |
I saw the tv film of PLAINSONG more than a dozen years ago, but somehow I managed to miss this exquisite little novel, first published in 1999. A couple years ago, I read Kent Haruf's last novel, OUR SOULS AT NIGHT, and it was equally moving, maybe even more than this one, because it's about old people and I'm an old person, and also because I knew it was Haruf's last book, published posthumously. Now I want very much to read the two sequels to PLAINSONG, which is obviously a book much loved, by tens of thousands of readers. No surprise. Haruf writes in a simple style that reaches right to the heart of things, a man who understands that men and women are complicated, but maybe not so terribly complicated. I especially loved the way Haruf contrasted the two sets of motherless brothers - the little Guthrie boys, Ike and Bobby; and the gruff, lonely old bachelor farmers, Harold & Raymond McPheron. This juxtaposition is one of the elements that makes this book so special. An especially moving example of this was when the two little boys asked their dad why the McPherons had never married, why they didn't have families. And the answer is provided by one of the small boys himself - that maybe they didn't want to leave each other, or words to that effect. PLAINSONG gives us tastes of both the good and bad sides of human natured, but at its core is a sweetness that stays with you long after you have closed the book.There is plenty more I could probably say about this book, but thousands of readers have already said their piece, so I probably couldn't add much new. I loved this book. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Nov 11, 2018 |
This story takes place in a very rural community in Colorado. It was difficult to care about the characters in this book, especially since the pov didn't allow the reader to know what anyone was thinking, and their actions often didn't make any sense to me, even given what I knew about the characters. I could never place them in time either, but there was a reference to Nancy Reagan, so if I had to guess between her movie star days vs First Lady, I'd guess it was earlier. No one seemed to respond much to their situation; they just went about their dull-witted ways. Maybe that was true to the culture of the people depicted.

This is the first book I've read by this author. If the others are also third person limited, yet without any internal motives shared, I would probably give it a miss. It won awards in the literary world but it didn't really score any points with me. ( )
  juliejb9 | Sep 23, 2018 |
Plainsong weaves together the stories of Victoria Roubideaux, seventeen years old, pregnant, and thrown out of the house by her mother; the McPheron brothers, Harold and Raymond, elderly bachelor ranchers; high school teacher Tom Guthrie and his two sons, Ike and Bobby; and Maggie Jones, another high school teacher.

Set in the small town of Holt, Colorado, sometime in the 1980s or 90s, this is a meditation on community, decency, and pulling together. Victoria, pregnant and now homeless, turns to her teacher, Mrs. Jones, for help. Maggie takes her in, and when it becomes clear that her father's advancing dementia makes the house unsafe for Victoria, she convinces the elderly, and lonely, McPheron brothers to give her a home.

Meanwhile, Tom Guthrie and his two sons, nine and ten years old, are struggling to adjust to first the emotional withdrawal of wife and mother, and then her actual withdrawal from their lives. The two sets of brothers, the Guthries and the McPherons, find their own connection, as the boys reach for growing maturity and independence, and the men learn both to support Victoria and depend on her. And Victoria learns that she's not just a burden and an inconvenience, but has her own strength and value, too.

This is a beautiful story, told in deceptively simple language and style. Holt is not utopia, and there are wrong people here as well as the good ones, and real challenges and problems to be overcome. In the end, though, this is a story that's deeply positive about people.

Recommended.

I bought this book. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kent Harufprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carey, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome 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.
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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)

Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. From simple elements, Haruf achieves a novel of wisdom and grace--a narrative that builds in strength and feeling until, as in a choral chant, the voices in the book surround, transport, and lift the reader off the ground. -- Publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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