Monday, March 05, 2007


Plainsong, Kent Haruf, Alfred A Knopf, 1999, 391 pp
I read this for one of the reading groups I attend. I had heard only good things about the book, even from my Mom. I was not disappointed.

On the High Plains of Colorado, east of Denver, lies Holt, a small town peopled by the usual suspects. Guthrie is a school teacher with two young sons and a depressed wife. Victoria is a pregnant teen whose single mother has kicked her out of the house. The two McPherons are aged brothers, raising cattle on the outskirts of town. They had never married and had become as dried and set in their ways as a skull on the windy plains. Maggie Jones is another teacher at the high school who rescues Victoria and plays the role of goddess of the plains.

Eventually these people are involved with each other, due to Maggie's wisdom and actions. They find in each other the family they have needed but lost.

It takes a while to get into the story but the spare prose which failed to draw me in at first becomes what saves the novel from too much heartwarming sentiment. If we are disconnected and lonely in the madness of cities, there is no saving grace in the country. What saves anyone is the kindness of the rare individuals who still have a heart no matter what life has done to them.

Quite a satisfying read and despite its darkness and scenes of despair and cruelty, an optimistic story.

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