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Plainsong (1999)

by Kent Haruf

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Plainsong (1), Holt cycle (3)

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5,0311921,664 (4)630
A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.
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» See also 630 mentions

English (179)  Italian (4)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (191)
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
A simple story about a teacher, his two boys, a pregnant girl, and two farming brothers in a small midwest town. ( )
  addunn3 | Dec 6, 2021 |
One of my favourite literary quotes is 'Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts' from To Kill A Mockingbird; Kent Haruf seemingly took that line to extremes, trimming speech marks and introspection alike from his writing. When reading comparisons with Hemingway and Faulkner in the introduction, two of my least favourite authors, I took fright but I'm glad I persevered. Yes, the prose is stripped bare and no, not many of the characters are very sympathetic, but the pace of the narrative and the timeless setting really grew on me.

In Holt, Colorado, a small town surrounded by cattle ranches and farms, high school student Victoria realises she is pregnant and her mother throws her out. She turns to one of her teachers, Maggie Jones, who lives with her elderly father. Another teacher, Tom Guthrie, is raising his two young sons after his troubled wife moves out and eventually leaves town. Both Maggie and Tom find help with their problems from two old farmers, the McPherons, on their ranch miles out of town: the brothers become the unlikely guardians of Victoria and the young Guthrie boys seek solace from the harsh realities of life with the crotchety old cattle men.

And that's the book - the connecting lives of a mother to be, two sets of brothers and two teachers in a rather bleak setting. I didn't like Tom Guthrie at all - or the disturbing shades of Stoner - and his sons were a bit creepy too, but all of the characters are painfully human and relatable in different ways. The McPheron brothers and their awkward affection for Victoria made my heart ache and I appreciated Maggie's common sense until she fell for Stoner, sorry Guthrie. I know Holt is a small town but come on!

Holt is the kind of fictional town I would love to visit for the scenery but would hate to live in, and Haruf perfectly captures the claustrophobia of a small community in hard times. I'm still not sure exactly when that time is supposed to be, however - probably the 1980s, but Stephen King and his kink for the good old 50s would probably feel at home in Holt! There are two more books in the series, which I think I will read, but only after a vacation in a livelier, friendlier story or two! ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Sep 1, 2021 |
Wow, what a beautiful book! Kent Haruf has taken a few proverbial lives of quiet desperation and turned them into a spellbinding portrait of small-town America. ( )
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
Kent Haruf passed away in 2014. His body of work is small, but so very deep and satisfying. I have read 2 of his 5 novels and will be truly sad when I read the last one. I may have to hold off a bit, just like I have waited years to read For Whom the Bell Tolls—my last Hemingway book to read. I guess I can start over again, but it will be sad to turn that last page on these writers.

Like Hemingway, Haruf is distinctly American and of a particular generation. A slower time when people were both better and worse. Certainly they were more individualistic. Today, with all the social media and instant news (almost simultaneous but not consistent in content) we are so current in our reception and perception of events that we are creating competing sets of hive minds. Not so here. People are alone with their thoughts and their perceptions are personal and individual. They reject and fight against the right of society at large to judge them and are better for it. Seeming opposites find empathetic union can bring small joys and a new sense of belonging. People stand up for those that they care about, not caring about whether anyone else feels that they are right or wrong.

Evensong is a collection of several simple storylines that converge at times to create a complete experience. Even though it is hardly a thriller in format, I found myself burning through the pages because the stories and, even more, the characters were just so interesting. I was completely captivated by this short novel. I could read it again right now and still enjoy it. The characters felt so real. I was so invested. There are very few writers who are capable of creation at this level.
( )
  ChrisMcCaffrey | Apr 6, 2021 |
Oh my goodness! What a wonderful way to start a new year! Kent Haruf tells a wonderful story of transformation, coming of age, and love! I was horrified, terrified, laughed out loud and cried tears of joy and sorrow. What more could one ask for? Absolutely marvelous characters? The novel has those as well. It is a must read! ( )
  hemlokgang | Jan 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kent Harufprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carey, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pera, MartaTranslatorsecondary 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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A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.

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1 9
1.5 4
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