Kent Haruf Plainsong

ISBN 13: 9780375406188

Plainsong

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9780375406188: Plainsong
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From the unsettled lives of a small-town teacher struggling to raise two boys alone in the face of their mother's retreat from life, a pregnant teenage girl with nowhere to go, and two elderly bachelor farmers emerges a new vision of life and family as their diverse destinies intertwine. 200,000 first printing.

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Review:

Plainsong, according to Kent Haruf's epigraph, is "any simple and unadorned melody or air." It's a perfect description of this lovely, rough-edged book, set on the very edge of the Colorado plains. Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher whose wife can't--or won't--get out of bed; the McPherons are two bachelor brothers who know little about the world beyond their farm gate; Victoria Roubideaux is a pregnant 17-year-old with no place to turn. Their lives parallel each other in much the same way any small-town lives would--until Maggie Jones, another teacher, makes them intersect. Even as she tries to draw Guthrie out of his black cloud, she sends Victoria to live with the two elderly McPheron brothers, who know far more about cattle than about teenage girls. Trying to console her when she think she's hurt her baby, the best lie they can come up with is this: "I knew of a heifer we had one time that was carrying a calf, and she got a length of fencewire down her some way and it never hurt her or the calf."

Holt, Colorado, is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone's business before that business even happens. In a way, that's true of the book, too. There's not a lot of suspense here, plot wise; you can see each narrative twist and turn coming several miles down the pike. What Plainsong has instead is note-perfect dialogue, surrounded by prose that's straightforward yet rich in particulars: "a woman walking a white lapdog on a piece of ribbon" glimpsed from a car window; the boys' mother, her face "as pale as schoolhouse chalk"; the smells of hay and manure, the variations of prairie light. Even the novel's larger questions are sized to a domestic scale. Will Guthrie find love? Will Victoria run away with the father of her baby? Will the McPherons learn to hold a conversation? But in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and Plainsong manages to capture nothing less than an entire world--fencing pliers, calf-pullers, and all. Kent Haruf has a gorgeous ear, and a knack for rendering the simple complex. --Mary Park

Review:

‘Perfectly formed, beautifully executed’ Mariella Frostrup

‘Beautifully crafted, alive and quietly magnificent. I read it in one mesmerising sitting. I had no choice; it wouldn't let me go’ Roddy Doyle

Plainsong is nothing short of a revelation. I don't expect to read a better novel this year. Or next, for that matter.’ Richard Russo

‘So delicate and lovely that it has the power to exalt the reader’ New York Times

‘Satisfying and warm, Plainsong is as purehearted a novel as they come’ Austin Chronicle

Plainsong becomes a story of mythic proportion, and not just a story about a small town in the American West, but a story of universal concern. Our story’ Boston Review

‘I’ve had the delightful experience once again of becoming so absorbed in a book that I couldn’t have slowed down if I

tried. The book is Kent Haruf ’s Plainsong, the most controlled, cohesive novel I’ve come across in a long time. By this I mean that its various elements – character, setting, plot, language, even the names, even the title – all add up to a work as flawlessly unified as a short story by Poe or Chekhov . . . At certain points I was horrified by the austerity of the isolated lives in this story, and yet on every page I savoured the beauty of the telling’ Chicago Tribune



Plainsong is a beauty, as spare and heartbreaking as an abandoned homestead cabin, always tough but humane, never sentimental. I loved the prose, as bright and hard as the winter sun sparkling off a sandy snow bank; and the characters, scrubbed to their essentials by the extremes of the Great Plains weather. It’s a story that draws the reader like a heat mirage’ James Crumley

‘True to the country he writes about, Haruf builds his characters out of small gestures and daily rituals, not dialogue. Theirs is a deep language, like the rumble before an earthquake’ L.A. Times

‘[Haruf] writes with a plainspoken, hardscrabble edge that saves his story from sentimentality. It’s a noun-and-verb-only style that’s part Russell Banks, part Raymond Carver, but altogether his own . . . Kent Haruf ’s splendid Plainsong succeeds beautifully. Elegant in its simplicity, elemental in its power, it arouses deep and hard-earned emotions’ Newsday

‘Like all the best novels, Plainsong takes you into a world that is at once real and vividly imagined. Here is a poetry of landscape, a tender and passionate evocation of ordinary people in majestic country. It is a novel of the young and old, of the bonds that bind us to each other, and written with a kind of compassion that makes it ultimately powerfully uplifting’ Niall Williams

Plainsong is a well-crafted investigation into how disparate voices, each unique and interconnected, can come together in the most unlikely of circumstances . . . Haruf offers a fresh approach by creating layers which intensify and deepen as the novel progresses, alternating between each character’s life at every chapter’ Observer

‘With deftness and precision, Plainsong orchestrates the overlapping lives of these and other characters . . . Haruf ’s descriptions are sublime in their exacting simplicity . . . A beautiful, contemporary novel that reads very much like a story from another time’ Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Holt, Colorado, a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf ’s beautifully executed new novel . . . Walking a tightrope of restrained design, Haruf steers clear of sentimentality and melodrama while constructing a taut narrative in which revelations of character and rising emotional tensions are held in

perfect balance. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family’ Publishers Weekly



'Ken Haruf's prose murmurs a haunting melody through the intertwined lives of a Colorado community. It is a simple tale of life, death, love and hatred' The Times

‘A lovely read, illuminated by sparks of spare beauty’ Time

‘It’s written in a flat, palms-on-the-table style, which effectively suppresses what could have been sentimental in the story. Plenty to gulp over still, though. A first-rate, old-fashioned read’ Time Out

Plainsong is the unisonous austere chant of a church service, and the hundreds of thousands of fans of this book have been nothing less than devotional in their praise of Kent Haruf ’ Times Literary Supplement

‘The emotional register of Plainsong, though kept in check by understatement and a stoic approach to the vicissitudes of life, is powerful. And Haruf works a quiet magic in the way he fits his characters’ lives in with the landscape and weather that surround them’ Washington Post Book World

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780375705854: Plainsong (Vintage Contemporaries)

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0375705856 ISBN 13:  9780375705854
Publisher: Random House USA Inc, 2000
Softcover

9781447240440: Plainsong

Picador, 2013
Softcover

9780330396639: Plainsong

Picador, 2000
Softcover

9781447289517: Plainsong

Picador, 2015
Softcover

9781568951478: Plainsong (Wheeler Large Print Press (large print paper))

Wheele..., 2001
Softcover

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