Paperback - 2000
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National Book Award Finalist

A heartstrong 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've 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 humor 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.
Published: New York : Vintage Books, 2000, c1999.
Edition: 1st Vintage Contemporaries ed.
ISBN: 9780375705854
Branch Call Number: F HAR
Characteristics: 301 p. ;,21 cm.


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Jun 29, 2019


Aug 18, 2018

After having loved Our Souls at Night, I was looking forward to this. I really wanted to like this book and there is so much to admire about Haruf's writing: His unadorned but impeccable style; a pervasive sense of place; the precision with which he selects details that turn simple phrases into crystal clear pictures; the down-to-earth realism of his characters. Above all, he relates a simple story about ordinary people, making every aspect convincingly real.
Sadly, I was conflicted. There was a problem that got in the way and spoiled the book for me: The recurrent sexual exploitation and abuse that young women and girls undergo. Three such episodes in such a short book became obtrusive. I was infuriated by the seeming inability of any of these three young women to push back against the jerks who take advantage of them. I don't consider myself a prude but I found the behavior of the young men offensive. I'm surprised that none of the female reviewers on Goodreads have made an issue of this matter.
Nevertheless, most of Haruf's characters are so engaging -- especially Maggie, the two little boys and above all the aging bachelor brothers; I have actually known old farmers just like them. All things considered, I plan to continue with the next book in the series on the strength of Haruf's wonderful writing and in the hope of a better outcome.

Bookwormie95 Jun 09, 2018

I'm not usually a fan of the whole Southwest-backcountry smalltown aesthetic, but this book pleasantly surprised me. The writing style at first reminded me of Cormac McCarthy, and I was going "Oh no, I can't handle bleak emotions like that," but it's a beautiful story that drew me in and then pleasantly didn't snap my neck. The characters are full of heart and there's a happy ending.

Apr 11, 2018

Full of grace, this slow moving tale weaves the lives of several members of the rural farming community, exposing their vulnerabilities. A satisfying , warm-hearted read.

Nov 06, 2017

A beautifully written, calm, at the same time gripping book about life in a small town in Colorado.

CircMary Oct 30, 2017

For those looking for excellent writing in a gentle read, Kent Haruf is your author. I don't know how I missed this special book when it came out in 2000, but I am glad I finally found it. There are 3 books in the Plainsong trilogy, but this first one is the gem.

Oct 23, 2017

Plainsong reminded me of the works of Cormac McCarthy in its pacing, and William Faulkner in its characters. Victoria is a teen aged girl who fell in love and got pregnant. The boy disappeared without ever finding out she was pregnant, and her mother kicked her out of the house. Victoria knocked on the door of Maggie, a teacher, and Maggie opened her heart to her. Even better, she persuaded two kind old brothers, who lived together and had never married, to take Victoria in. They have no clue about how to make her feel at home, but they try so hard to learn. It’s all going well, then the boy who got Victoria pregnant reappeared and talked her into going with him to Colorado. What’s waiting for her there, though, is partying and abnegation of responsibility to herself and her baby, so she takes the bus back home and re-installs herself in the old men’s house.

This book started off very slow, and I was tempted to abandon it. Once I got to know the characters, though, I liked it a lot. I liked THEM a lot. They live hard lives with a lot stacked against them, and minced no words for the sake of politeness. But they were so kind and honest, I couldn’t help but feel admiration and affection for them.

May 17, 2017

This is a simple, beautiful story about the ways that people make families and find and help each other. Set in rural Colorado, it feels timeless although it seems to be set somewhere around the 1980s.

path111 Apr 24, 2016

Plainsong derives its title from the unadorned and restrained religious chant which could be pictured in early morning prayer set in the low light and echo of a chapel. No, it's not a religious book (at least strict sense). But it's this aura that pervades the story of simple lives unfolding in the cattle ranch plains of eastern Colorado.

A trusted teacher tells a young pregnant student, "It's time for you to wake up now". Responsibility falls upon her, and is taken on by others in the community.

You come to know and love them all in their own no-frills way of dealing with their abandonment and unannounced summons. Even the unique light of the winter plains and its ubiquitous wind are characters in the simple narrative.

The reader meets these folk in their troubled and generous hearts.

I am better for having met them in my brief stay with them in this touching book.

Oct 12, 2015

Such a great book. Deceptively simple, but rich with imagery and personalities. The old men in this one remind me so strongly of my grandpa and his brother, who were also old farmers on mixed farms. I will be reading all Mr. Haruf's other books now.

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ArapahoeMaryA Sep 10, 2017

Oh, I know it sounds crazy, she said. I suppose it is crazy. I don’t know. I don’t even care. But that girl needs somebody and I’m ready to take desperate measures. She needs a home for these months. And you—she smiled at them—you old solitary bastards need somebody too. Somebody or something besides an old red cow to care about and worry over. It’s too lonesome out here. Well, look at you. You’re going to die some day without ever having had enough trouble in your life. Not of the right kind anyway. This is your chance.”


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