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The Tie That Binds by Kent Haruf

The Tie That Binds (original 1984; edition 2000)

by Kent Haruf

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5301519,020 (4.03)43
Title:The Tie That Binds
Authors:Kent Haruf
Info:Vintage (2000), Edition: Vintage Contemporaries ed, Paperback, 246 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Tie That Binds by Kent Haruf (1984)


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"She will be eighty years old this week: a clean beautiful white-haired woman who never in her life weighed as much as 115 pounds, and she has weighed a lot less than that since New Year’s Eve. Still, the sheriff and the lawyers expect her to get well enough for them to sit her up in a wheelchair and then drive her across town to the courthouse to begin the trial.” (Ch 1)

So begins The Tie That Binds, written some fifteen years earlier than Haruf’s masterpiece Plainsong. Like its successor, The Tie That Binds features a sibling relationship, that of the dutiful Edith Goodnough and her simple brother, Lyman. The two are the children of failed homesteaders, “fixed” to an unrelenting life on the dryland farm, south of Holt. Lyman will eventually escape, but Edith will have no such reprieve: rather, she remains unfalteringly loyal to her cruel, ungrateful father. Her sole relationships, outside of immediate family, are with a neighbouring father and son: John and Sanders Roscoe. It is Sanders, in fact, who narrates the novel. The Roscoes alone are appreciative of Edith’s beauty, both inside and out; and they understand and accept her unwavering sense of duty. Later, they will know her incredible courage.

Haruf’s writing never fails to mesmerize me. Edith and Lyman Goodnough are unforgettable, just as the MacPheron brothers I came to love before them. Though perhaps they did not illicit the same level of emotional response from me as the two elder brothers, The Tie That Binds is Haruf’s debut novel! His sense of place and time here is as flawless as I’ve come to expect: he writes of an August day in 1967 when the Goodnoughs and the Roscoes, Sanders and his wife, attend the Holt County Fair, and I won’t forget that day! The evocative writing, so simple and yet so intimate, drew me time and again right into the novel’s pages, into Holt, and into the lives of the characters. Most highly recommended.

"But if their father was fixed, Edith and Lyman were fixed even worse. They were stuck now on that sandhill farm. How were they going to leave him, the way he was? They couldn’t leave him. Not that way, they couldn’t. It was hell for all of them. They were all fixed.” (Ch 3) ( )
7 vote lit_chick | Oct 1, 2015 |
Kent Haruf landed on my favorite authors list thanks to his Plainsong trilogy, set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. But the people of Holt first appeared many years earlier in The Tie that Binds, Haruf's debut novel. The book opens with 80-year-old Edith Goodnough in hospital under suspicious circumstances. Her neighbor, Sanders Roscoe, proceeds to explain events leading up to Edith's hospitalization. And by "leading up to," I mean her entire life. Edith's parents moved from Iowa to Colorado in the late 1800s and bought a farm; Edith and her brother Lyman were born on the farm. Her father Roy was fiercely independent, but circumstances forced him to seek help from his nearest neighbors, the Roscoe family, from time to time. The two families were cordial, but Roy's temper and controlling manner was a barrier to close relationships. World War II provided Lyman with an escape, but Edith remained at home with her father, suppressing her own needs out of a sense of duty. Time marched on, the Goodnoughs and Roscoes continued to support one another, and Edith somehow managed to keep a positive outlook despite being practically a prisoner on her father's farm. She finds happiness through the lives of others, and eventually experiences a period of independence, but again fate intervenes and sets up the dramatic events foreshadowed at the beginning of the novel.

As with his later works, Haruf brings rural Colorado and its people to life. This book lacks the complexity and emotional depth of the Plainsong trilogy, but is still an excellent read from a novelist who left us far too soon. ( )
5 vote lauralkeet | Sep 27, 2015 |
Excellent writing. The first I have read of his. I will be reading the others. ( )
  Corwin2634 | Apr 2, 2015 |
This is Haruf's first novel and I was moved to read it because I was much attracted by his Plainsong which i read 23 Apr 2000. This is a brutal novel of farm life in notheastern Colorado, depicting a tyrant father utterly dominating his son and daughter. The son escapes, but the daughter is held by the paternal tie.. The narrator is the son of the man who loves the daughter but is despised by the father. Long after the father dies the son returns, setting up a new scenario for drama. I found the first part of the novel totally absorbing, and the ending suitably gripping though some of the account after the son's return and before the dramatic close did pall a bit. But it is a superior fictional drama which is poignant and at times heart-stopping. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Jul 22, 2014 |
I always love it when I find a new author. Haruf is a Colorado resident and writes about a small town named Holt. This story starts with an 80 year old woman in the hospital and about to be charged with murder. What comes is the tale of how she got to this place. The characters are interesting and watching their lives unfold is very engaging. I've since read another of his (Where You Once Belonged)and it was equally involving but considerably darker in tone. ( )
  Jane1551 | May 15, 2014 |
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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)

(summary from another edition)

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