Tag Archives: Plainsong

Benediction by Kent Haruf

9781447227526And Kent Haruf does it again. After my love bubbled over for Plainsong and Eventide, I was concerned about reading the last instalment in the Holt trilogy. I fell in love with certain characters and my mind was comfortable with how Eventide ended. There was a fear that Haruf couldn’t win me over again. I kept putting off reading it for that reason, but also because I knew that when I read it the story would end. Obviously I pulled myself together and sat down to read.

As with Eventide, the story doesn’t follow a set of characters. The Holt trilogy takes a snapshot of life from different perspectives and leaves you to mull it all over. There is no real beginning or end, Haruf only gives you the middle and you’re okay with that. I didn’t approach Benediction thinking that I would meet old friends or that storylines would be wrapped up in a bow. That isn’t what these books are about.

Benediction introduces us to Dad Lewis, a character called so because he is a dad and Dad is dying of cancer. We find this out very early on and the book follows the emotions that result from that situation. Other characters will pass in and out, such as the new preacher in town and his son, but we will always come back to Dad much like we did with the McPheron brothers. But I don’t want to write about the story; I want to write about how the book made me feel.

As with the previous books, Benediction took me through a range of emotions because of the skill with which Haruf writes. The author has the power to use pensive sentences to hollow out your heart and fill it with memorable characters. Each sentence has a delicate touch. The structure is simple and the book is stronger for it. By using such sparse language the emotion seeps out of the page more effectively. The book has a bittersweet tinge to it, in that Haruf will never allow his cast to rise above their issues and solve all their ills.

Kent Haruf is a true master at his craft. I’ve just read back over the previous 360 words and realised not one of them has any power to them. The Holt trilogy has had such an impact on me that it renders me rather dumb for words. I honestly don’t feel as if I can articulate my passion for these novels. Benediction is a jewel that can nestle well with the others and I am sad that it has all come to an end. I may be very new to Kent Haruf, but I can say that I have found a new favourite author whose books are more powerful than I can truly express.

Published by Picador. This book was kindly sent for review by the publisher.

Plainsong and Eventide by Kent Haruf

9781447240440Over reading both Plainsong and Eventide, I think what I adore the most about Kent Haruf and his attitude to storytelling is his ability to leave you hanging on the end of a story without you really caring. By this I mean how he brings up many small plots within his overarching story and never quite puts the finish line in sight. But I don’t care about that. Normally I’d be raging and want to know what has happened to the characters I am fond of. But here, I know they are in good hands and that while I may never see the full outcome, I know that these treasured people will live on in Haruf’s mind.

And they are treasured to me. Guthrie, Ike, Bobby, the McPheron brothers, Rose, Victoria, they are like family to me. Haruf writes each of these fragile characters with such a subtle beauty. They have their faults, but who doesn’t? They are all human and live their lives as only they can. These two novels envelope you in that warm small town America vibe that feels comfortable and close. We see recurring cast members that are fully fleshed out even if all they did was appear for 30 pages. They pop up, say good morning and venture on. It is like meeting an old friend who you missed without really noticing.

Of course, I had my favourites. The McPheron brothers being at the top of the list. These two old (and slightly crotchety) men have lived together since their parents died. They run a cattle ranch just outside of the town of Holt, wherein everything takes place, and they have a warmth that everyone would want in their lives. Over the two books I became so enamoured with Harold and Raymond that each and every moment of their journey brought out an emotion. I cried with them9781447240457 and I laughed out loud at their old ways.

It is through the eloquent but abrupt language that Haruf captures your heart and soul. There are no overly worked sentence structures and never are the metaphors laid on too thickly. Each sentiment is staccato and each description flows like water. No words are wasted and no paragraph leaves the reader wondering as to the authors intentions. Why use fifty words when only ten will do? Why only describe the countryside briefly when there is so much to take in. Haruf balances the two wonderfully and uses plain language to burrow into your mind.

It seems harsh to compare these two amazing novels to television… And especially soap operas. However, I’m sure Kent Haruf won’t mind if I do so. The books have a familiarity that comes with long running TV shows. The cast has tremendous depth, the stories intertwine and create a beautiful tapestry of emotions. There are dramatic moments that can fill the reader with dread and there are heartwarming situations that create laughter from nowhere. It all feels like shrugging on that old jumper that is fraying at the cuffs but makes you feel ‘right’.

Over the few days of reading Plainsong and Eventide I devoured the writing with gusto and never once felt that I’d hit a stumble or roadblock. Haruf doesn’t necessarily break down the human condition or analyse every nuance. Regardless, what has been created are the opening books of a masterpiece series of storytelling. I know I will forever look back at the cast of these books with a fondness and will tell everyone I know to read and fall in love with them.

Published by Picador. These books were kindly sent for review by the publisher.

Both Plainsong and Eventide utterly deserve the following stars…

5star