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Archive for the ‘Kent Haruf’ Tag

Life and relationships on Colorado’s Plains   Leave a comment

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Kent Haruf’s slow moving, methodical novels immediately embrace readers. Eventide is no exception. The setting is rural Colorado, where seasons dictate life’s pace.

Haruf reintroduces several characters from his bestselling Plainsong, including brothers Harold and Raymond McPheron, Victoria Robideaux and Colorado’s eastern plains. The McPherons, who have spent their entire lives working side by side on the family farm, have never married. Victoria, the unwed teenage mother they took in in the previous novel, is ready to leave for college with her young daughter. The impact the mother and child have had on the McPherons is tangible; their reaction to the pair leaving is parental.

Yet theirs is only part of the narrative. Holt is a small town, where, it seems, everyone is acquainted, whether personally or indirectly, with everyone else – or at least knows of their business. There’s Luther and Betty, with their two children, living on food stamps who meet regularly with a social worker, Rose. Despite her best efforts, the parents have no parenting skills and the children suffer.

Haruf describes relationships in the sparsest of terms, yet they’re vivid. Some are painful, others humorous, many loving, but all are real. For example, Betty and Luther don’t intentionally put their kids in harm’s way, but neither do they know how to protect them.

Even with the subplots involving other residents of Holt, the focus always returns to the McPherons, particularly Raymond after tragedy strikes.

Haruf uses no quotation marks and terse dialog, yet the conversations speak volumes.

Eventide
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2004
300 pages

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Pillow Talk   Leave a comment

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is best described as sweet. This terse novel was published posthumously, and its content makes me imagine that the author was in his final days when he penned it. This is a story of finding a way out of loneliness while believing that the opinions of others have little value or impact.

Addie Moore and Lewis Waters are widowed and living in the fictional town of Holt on Colorado’s eastern plains. This is Haruf’s preferred setting as many of his previous works have centered around this small communityand its residents. Anyone familiar with his writing will recognize names and places.

One day, Addie calls Lewis. They have known each other for years, but only peripherally. She wonders if he would like to spend the night. This is no brazen, immoral solicitation. It is one lonely heart reaching out to another.

Addie’s son and grandson figure into the narrative as does Lewis’s daughter. The townspeople make sure these adult children are aware of what their parents are doing.

Haruf provides a lot of detail such as teeth brushing and lawn care for someone trading in a scarcity of words (after all, the book is less than 200 pages long).

Unfortunately, the premise, which is touching and somewhat whimsical, overshadows the writing, which is too mundane to be enchanting. Anyone who has experienced a meaningful relationship (be it lover or friend) will appreciate the warmth drawn from conversations that happen just before sleep.

Our Souls at Night
Three bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
179 pages

Kent Haruf’s Blessings   2 comments

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Kent Haruf’s Plainsong is among my favorite books. I haven’t read any of his other works for fear, I think, I’d be disappointed. After reading Benediction, one of the author’s last works before his death in late 2014, I realize I had no cause for worry.

Set in the (fictional) rural town of Holt, Colo., this is an agreeably slow-moving, intimate portrait of the bonds between families and community. The first paragraph sets the tone: Dad Lewis, a long-time resident of Holt and owner of the hardware store, receives the news that he’s dying of cancer. In his dying days, his grown daughter returns home to help; longtime friends and neighbors drop in to visit; and a few flashbacks surface to help tell the story of an imperfect man, beloved by his wife and daughter, estranged from his son, who tried to do his best.

The beauty of Haruf’s writing is that he provides just enough detail to hold the reader’s attention without overwhelming the imagination. That is, situations appear with gaps of information like potholes on a dirt road. Eventually, they get filled.

Interactions with those Dad has known for years intersect with a few new residents to Holt: the preacher and his family, including an angry teenage son and an even angrier wife. The young granddaughter of the woman across the street is another significant character. It would be heavy handed to feature a new-born, but Haruf’s circle of life is gripping, lyrical and not at all mawkish.

Benediction

Four Bookmarks
Knopf, 2013
258 pages