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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Plainsong by Kent Haruf~★★1/2

Author: Kent Haruf
Title: Plainsong
Release Date: August 22nd, 2000
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "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.
Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong is a novel to care about, believe in and learn from."

Taryn's Review: The author of this book didn't use quotation marks in his book. This created some problems for me while I reading, since at times I wasn't sure if I was reading dialogue or actual narration. Sometimes I would read something and think, "This doesn't make sense." I'd then have to figure out if the character actually said those words or if the author/narrator said it. It was rather frustrating and really killed my enjoyment of the book.

I did like the book because the author held my interest on the topic. However, I felt like the author kept the reader emotionally distant from the characters and it was hard to become emotionally invested in the book. It was difficult for me to understand why the characters did what they did since I didn't know anything about them or know their thoughts. Haruf had a tendency to describe the characters' actions over what the characters were thinking and again, this left me with a lack of sympathy for the characters.

I'm not convinced that the book was a 3, but it wasn't bad enough to be a 2. I finally went with 2 1/2 stars since I think there were too many different stories going on the book to make it really flow. I understand the author's intent was to show Holt the Community, but Holt really wasn't all that different from any other little town in the U.S. Every community has its pregnant teens, abandoned husbands and children, elderly bachelors, lonely old women, and trashy families. Focusing on one of them would have been the best route, in my opinion. And I also cannot stress the importance of quotation marks and how the lack of them in the book really lowered ability to really absorb the book's story. And frustratingly, the fate of many characters was not mentioned at the end of the book and the future of the characters that Haruf did describe was hazy at best.

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