Summary and book reviews of Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Plainsong

by Kent Haruf

Plainsong by Kent Haruf
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  • First Published:
    Oct 1999, 301 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2000, 320 pages

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Book Summary

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.

Excerpt
Plainsong

Here was this man Tom Guthrie in Holt standing at the back window in the kitchen of his house smoking cigarettes and looking out over the back lot where the sun was just coming up. When the sun reached the top of the windmill, for a while he watched what it was doing, that increased reddening of sunrise along the steel blades and the tail vane above the wooden platform. After a time he put out the cigarette and went upstairs and walked past the closed door behind which she lay in bed in the darkened guest room sleeping or not and went down the hall to the glassy room over the kitchen where the two boys were.

The room was an old sleeping porch with uncurtained windows on three sides, airy-looking and open, with a pinewood floor. Across the way they were still asleep, together in the same bed under the north windows, cuddled up, although it was still early fall and not yet cold. They had been sleeping in the same bed for the past month and now the older boy had ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Kent Haruf's Plainsong. We hope they will provide you with new angles from which to approach and discuss this powerful tale of seven lonely lives set on the stark but beautiful High Plains of Colorado.

In the small town of Holt, Tom Guthrie, a high school teacher, fights to keep his life together and to raise his two boys after their depressed mother first retreats into her bedroom, and then moves away to her sister's house. The boys, not yet adolescents, struggle to make sense of adult behavior and their mother's apparent abandonment. A pregnant teenage girl, kicked out by her mother and rejected by the father of her...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Author Blurb Richard Russo
Kent Haruf's new novel Plainsong is nothing short of a revelation. I don't expect to read a better novel this year. Or next, for that matter.

Author Blurb Beverly Lowry
I read Plainsong in one sitting, unwilling--unable--to look up until I'd finished. Kent Haruf has given us a pure blessing of a book a novel of such sheer sweet amplitude, grace and humanity.

Author Blurb Howard Frank Mosher
Plainsong is the marvelous story of how seven extraordinary members of a tiny prairie community--two dedicated teachers, two young boys wise beyond their years, a pair of wonderfully idiosyncratic rancher brothers and a pregnant high school girl--come together, in the face of great difficulties, to form the most appealing extended family in contemporary fiction. With Plainsong, Kent Haruf has written an American masterwork a profound, witty, warmhearted and tough-minded account of a place where family and community still come first. Plainsong is the best new novel I've read since Cold Mountain.

Author Blurb James Crumley
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 snowbank, 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.

Reader Reviews

Taryn R.

It's life
Incredible book. I don't see why so many people are rating it "1" out of 5. Yes, there are graphic scenes, but that is life. People can't seem to handle the virtuosic novel and all of the facts it gives. It is so simply written that it ...   Read More

Noel J. O'Neill

A very smooth read....
In my travels I listen to many books on CD. Since I am in a couple's book club, I was really on the alert for a good conversational book that we all might enjoy. Finally after reading Plainsong, I knew this was the one I would pick. From my ...   Read More

Bronwyn Davis

I've been retired from teaching high school English for a few years now, but were I still teaching, I would seriously consider assigning Kent Haruf's "Plainsong" to my Junior and Senior classes. It has all of the elements of a true ...   Read More

Bianca

This was a great book to read!

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