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The Tie That Binds by Kent Haruf
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The Tie That Binds (1984)

by Kent Haruf

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Having read four of Haruf’s novels before dipping into this, his debut novel, I am immediately struck by two things: how well written this story is, and some stark differences to his later works. If you love Willa Cather’s stories – so far I have only read O’ Pioneers! and My Antonia, both of which are, IMO, fabulous stories – then I think The Tie That Binds may appeal to you. Both Haruf and Cather have a skill for capturing, with eloquence, the lonesomeness of the vast high plains/prairies. Haruf’s story is a story of two families – the Roscoes and the Goodnoughs (with a focus on Edith Goodnough) – and spans some 80 years. While we know right at the start that the story has a tragic event at its root, Haruf’s takes his time telling it, making use of 50 year old Sanders Roscoe as our meandering storyteller. Sanders takes his time because he wants the reader to fully understand the events leading up to that fateful day.

This is a deeply affecting, tragic story with themes of love, loyalty, responsibility and sacrifice. Edith is an amazing character. Her fortitude/ resilience is powerful. So how does this differ from Haruf’s other novels I have read? For me, this story is more focused. Everything dove-tails towards Edith. While Haruf’s stories tend to include difficult family situations, the unrelenting nature of the sadistic/ overbearing influence Edith and her brother endure makes this such a shocking read.

If you are like me and gravitate towards stories, like this one, written in clear, straightforward prose with a raw subject matter that emotionally draws you in, I can highly recommend The Last of the Crazy People by Timothy Findley. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Jan 28, 2019 |
This was my second Kent Haruf after reading "Our Souls At Night." And this man can sure write! There is something so evocative about his writing that it makes me want to stay glued to his words. There is sadness, yes, but there is something redemptive about that sadness. ( )
  Soulmuser | May 30, 2017 |
I love everything I've read by Kent Haruf. This book was his first novel, set as the others are in Holt, Colorado. His voice and style seemed to have been fully formed from the outset, because this book is as strong as the ones that followed. The pacing, imagery, characters, dialogue, and trajectory are confident and familiar. If anything, his characters in this book are stronger than in the others, but in no way are they hard to imagine in his fictional community of Holt. If you've enjoyed Haruf's other work you will enjoy this. ( )
1 vote Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
I miss Kent Haruf, like you’d miss a favorite uncle or grandfather who’d taught about life with every breath they took before they left this world. So, picking up [The Tie That Binds], realizing that there was too little left to discover from him was freighted with much more than the printed words inside the cover.

Edith Goodnough (another in my ever growing list of perfect character names) lives with her crippled father and eccentric brother in Holt, Colorado. It’s a rugged Holt, different from the landscape we have come to know in Haruf’s later books. And Edith’s gritty existence matches the dry, sunbaked earth in the fields out back of her house. She surrenders love and happiness to care for one mean-spirited man, and another useless one. Her choices will make you ache for her, but also admire her.

Haruf will never disappoint, and he didn’t with this early work. Mind you, it’s not the place to start, as the writing is raw and a little unrecognizable. But it’s still Haruf, and there’s not enough of him left.

Bottom Line: An early and raw Haruf, but one that still captivates.

4 1/2 bones!!!!! ( )
1 vote blackdogbooks | Feb 28, 2017 |
Our first book discussion book that i loved!
( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
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for Ginger and Mark
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Edith Goodnough isn't in the country anymore.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375724389, Paperback)

Colorado, January 1977. Eighty-year-old Edith Goodnough lies in a hospital bed, IV taped to the back of her hand, police officer at her door. She is charged with murder. The clues: a sack of chicken feed slit with a knife, a milky-eyed dog tied outdoors one cold afternoon. The motives: the brutal business of farming and a family code of ethics as unforgiving as the winter prairie itself.

In his critically acclaimed first novel, Kent Haruf delivers the sweeping tale of a woman of the American High Plains, as told by her neighbor, Sanders Roscoe. As Roscoe shares what he knows, Edith's tragedies unfold: a childhood of pre-dawn chores, a mother's death, a violence that leaves a father dependent on his children, forever enraged. Here is the story of a woman who sacrifices her happiness in the name of family--and then, in one gesture, reclaims her freedom. Breathtaking, determinedly truthful, The Tie That Binds is a powerfully eloquent tribute to the arduous demands of rural America, and of the tenacity of the human spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:14 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

As elderly Edith Goudnough lies in a hospital bed, accused of murder, her neighbor, Sanders Roscoe, tells what he knows of her life: "a childhood of pre-dawn chores, a mother's death, a violence that leaves a father dependent on his children, forever enraged."--Cover.… (more)

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