Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Plainsong (Plainsong Series) by Kent Haruf

Paperback:  Plainsong (1999) - the first book in the quietly magnificent Plainsong series - is a heart-strong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.

In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether.  A teenage girl - her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house - is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go.  And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they have ever known.

From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together - their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humour intact and resonant.  As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.

Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong explores the grace and hope of every human life and mankind's infinity capacity for love.  It is a novel to care about, believe in, and learn from.

About the author:  Kent Haruf was born in eastern Colorado.  He received his Bachelors of Arts in literature from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965 and his Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973.  For two years, he taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps and his other jobs have included a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado, a hospital in Arizona, a library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, and universities in Nebraska and Illinois.

Haruf is the author of Plainsong (1999), which received the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction, and The New Yorker Book Award.  Plainsong was also a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award.  His novel, The Tie That Binds (1984), received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the Pen/Hemingway Foundation.  In 2006, Haruf was awarded the Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

All of his novels are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.  Holt is loosely based on Yuma, Colorado, an early residence of Haruf in the 1980s.

Haruf lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado, with their three daughters.  He died of cancer on 30 November 2014.

Rating:  5/5

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