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Benediction (Plainsong)

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  6,364 ratings  ·  1,322 reviews
When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife must work together, along with their daughter, to make his final days as comfortable as possible, despite the bitter absence of their estranged son. Next door, a young girl moves in with her grandmother and contends with the memories that Dad’s condition stirs up of her own mother’s death. A newly arrived pr ...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Knopf
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Will Byrnes
Kent Haruf takes his time. His first novel, The Ties That Bind, was published in 1984, winning a Whiting Foundation Award and a Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation. His second novel, Where You Once Belonged was published in 1990. Plainsong, which became a best-seller and was a National Book Award finalist, was published in 1999. It's sequel, Eventide, was published in 2004. Nine years later we have Haruf's fifth novel, Benediction. All his novels are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, (a ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Benediction is a pensive novel about the dailiness of life in a small town, the neighborly kindnesses as well as the regrets and missed chances that haunt its residents. At times it's more a lament than a benediction.

"Dad" Lewis is the central character. He only has a few weeks left to live. Knowing this makes him treasure events and places that once seemed ordinary and unspecial. As his life draws to a close, he allows himself to revert to a childlike authenticity. He finally tells people what
When stopped one night on a dark outside street, a character in Haruf's haunting, beautiful novel is asked: "What are you doing out here?" And he replies, after some confusion about what it is he's doing, that he is simply looking at "The precious ordinary."

This moment lept out to me as the heart of this novel, as its entire message distilled down to one simple line. The precious ordinary. This is what Haruf writes. In all his novels he shines his own brand of lamplight on the beautiful edges o
Apr 06, 2014 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Michael by: Will byrnes
This one made for a very satisfying return for me to the fictional rural community of Holt in the high plains of Colorado. As in his other books, we are treated to the stories of ordinary people struggling to make the most of their lives in the face of the unfulfilled dreams or lost people, all rendered in a spare prose and understated but rich dialog. People who try to rectify their past mistakes. And take the time to rejoice at the simple pleasures from the company of family and friends and th ...more
Diane Yannick
I will read anything this man writes. He can capture our universal humanity way down at a soul level. His eloquent, unobtrusive, sparse prose leads the reader from one carefully drawn scene to the next. He just lays out his story and lets the reader come along for the ride. No words, phrases, or concepts are tortured in this process.

The Lewis family faces the death of their patriarch with as much dignity as they can. Their regrets and accomplishments mix together into an acceptance of a life liv
ETA 11/30/14: RIP to Kent Haruf. Your wisdom, gentleness, and wit will be dearly missed. "And death shall have no dominion . . ."

Holt, Colorado – a blunt-edged town on the eastern edge of Colorado’s high and dry plains – where time ticks like the cooling engine of car. Storms build in billowing clouds on the horizon, summers grind through with breathless heat, winters drive ice and snow from across the flat middle of the country. It is as it has always been. It seems so little changes in this qu
The End

“Benediction” is a lovely story beautifully written. The theme is reminiscent of Marilynne Robinson. The Christian message transcends a niche and expands into something universal. Haruf creates an ideal template for living yet he shows the people who try and live it complete with their warts intact. He tackles a lot of issues in 250 pages. The central theme is loss. At the book’s heart is Dad Lewis who’s just found out he has a fatal disease. He tackles death as it approaches and naturall
Jan Rice
May 26, 2014 Jan Rice rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jan by: Will Byrnes
Some of my favorite books have memorable death scenes. A secondary character in War and Remembrance: a brash fighter pilot who couldn't imagine that he would die but for whom it was suddenly all over. An old man at the end of The Master Butchers Singing Club, whose life was a fanned-out deck of cards closing up. The main character at the end of And Ladies of the Club. Now that last one contained so many flesh and blood characters across 65 or 70 years that there were bound to be losses! I keep t ...more
Mark Stevens
“Benediction” says we all matter. “Benediction” looks at our faint footprints on the surface of the earth and says each step counts.

We return to the land of “Plainsong” and “Eventide,” but there are only a couple of faint references to the characters who absorbed our attention during those two novels. If “Benediction” is the cap on a trilogy (and Kent Haruf says it’s not), then it’s a trilogy by landscape, not character.

Except the landscape, out in eastern Colorado, seems to form the character.
Emily Crowe
I'm hovering between 4 and 5 stars on this one, but I tend to be conservative in my ratings so I'll leave it at 4 for now. What a gorgeous read. Here's the mini "shelf talker" that I wrote for my bookstore:

Benediction by Kent Haruf. Nobody has a finger on the pulse of Americana quite like Haruf, and he brings his full expertise to bear in this powerfully moving novel. Dad Lewis, more backbone than scion of Holt, Colorado, must face his own mortality and as he reflects back on his life, family, a
Kent Haruf knows the human heart. He knows how people feel, what they think, why they love, and how they get by. In many ways, he’s a chronicler of the lives of ordinary people with sentences so straightforward, so true, that the reader can’t help but feel that he or she knows these folks intimately.

He won my heart with Plainsong and strengthened that love with Eventide. Now he goes back to the well with another psalm to the residents of Holt, Colorado. Like the earlier books, Kent Haruf intertw
12/01/2014 – Kent Haruf…you chronicled my eastern Colorado roots so brilliantly that I personally knew those folks from “Holt”. May you rest in peace.

Kent Haruf’s writing style is so eloquent, spare and beautiful. As with Plainsong, this novel’s setting is in Holt, an imaginary small town on the High Plains of eastern Colorado. I’m a native of this part of Colorado so I’m very familiar with these folks and their quiet but compelling stories. It starts slowly as Haruf introduces the reader to som
11/30/14 The wonderful author Kent Haruf has died. Rest in peace.

9/28/13 There is a tone of reverence for all phases of a person's life, including death, in Benediction. Kent Haruf again writes about the townspeople of the small town of Holt, Colorado. He tells us about ordinary people and everyday life in spare, beautiful language.

The main character is Dad Lewis, the owner of a hardware store, who received the news that he only has a few weeks to live. The author, who has been a hospice volunte
Apr 18, 2014 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
The entire time I was reading this book I could not get a line from Max Ehrmann's Desiderata out of my head: "Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others; even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story." Benediction is the story of a nobody, really. Just a fellow who labored at the same job for half a century, raised a small semi-dysfunctional family, and then became ill. We all know someone like Dad Lewis: most of us will know several people like him. Entire city block ...more
Oct 19, 2013 Barbara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Debby
On Sunday, February 24, 2013, John Freeman, who is the editor of Granta , had a review in the Boston Globe of this latest book by Haruf. It is of particular interest for me because I have enjoyed the novels of this author. I have admired his ability to take a small town in America and interject the reality and the life force of this place and its inhabitants. Freeman's review offers a glimmer of promise that Haruf has done it again!

Chris Witkowski
Kent Haruf is a master at describing the very simple things in life - a soft summer breeze, the sweet smell of the air after a sudden rain storm, the everyday tasks performed by ordinary, but very kind and gentle people. His first novel, Plainsong, is one of the sweetest novels I have ever read. Benediction, also set in the small town of Holt, Colorado, has a similar tone, as it tells the story of the last days of Dad Lewis, a man, a husband and a father, who is dying of cancer. Through flashbac ...more
David Carr
The fine Australian writer Peter Carey calls Kent Haruf “one of the great poets of the modern novel. He has an extraordinary capacity for love. He will give you the smell of the dirt and grasses of the High Plains of Colorado. He will never fail to engage your heart, but because he is an honest man, he will have you grasp the nettles. If you have never entered his beautiful singing sentences, I envy you your first time. … This is why writers write and readers read.” Here is one master praising a ...more
My husband has hounded me for years to read Mr. Haruf, and now that I have I must go back and read all his books. The man can write! His style is a bit unique, but I loved it! He tells a story that I imagine almost everyone can relate to in some way.

This story is about Dad Lewis and the life he has had. The people who have been a part of most of it as well as those who are there only at the end. These characters are not bigger than life, they are every day, simple, rather non impressive people
I just finished listening to this book and am feeling sad that it is finished. Haruf does a wonderful job of mixing hope into the story of an elderly man dying of cancer. It is no secret that Dad Lewis does die of cancer at the end, but this is the story of relationships, some broken, some mended, Dad Lewis's benediction offered over his life.

The book contains other sub-stories: the local minister and his family, the neighbor lady, Berta and her grandchild, Alice, a mother and daughter. Each con
This is a magnificent novel. It's about a man dying, but contains so many scenes of life and hope that I had to put the book down after each chapter and stare out into space absorbing the beauty of Haruf's world. Haruf tells an emotional story, really several small stories as he goes back in time to reveal the fullness of a life, that emcompass several different characters and yet it all seems so simple. His sentences are often declarative and his descriptions modestly elegant. He shifts from ch ...more
This is one of my favorite authors, so even though I usually avoid cancer books like the plague, I went after this one full-throttle. Like Haruf's other novels, this is a book about living and dying in a small town. It's about how families take care of each other: some related by blood, and some not. It's about tragedies: some large, and some of the everyday variety.

The writing is simple and pure, much like the story being told. It won't bowl you over with its beauty, but it always rings true,
I'm going to borrow a quote from another GR member when she was explaining to me how to read Faulkner, "it's all about people, not ideas". That's how this book read for me. It was a glimpse into the life of Dad Lewis, his town and his neighbors. The characters warm your heart but you have moments of sadness with what each are dealing with in their lives. It's a book of loss but also of celebration.

Author: Kent Haruf

Publisher: Alfred A. Knoff, New York, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-95988-1

The book defines benediction as, “the utterance of a blessing, an invocation of blessedness.”

What I liked most about this book is that the story did not try to sugarcoat life. Dad Lewis is dying. There is no hope, media vita in morte sumus.

The characters take part in a real life type story. As they leave the doctor’s office with the bad news Dad asked his wife, Mary, to drive home. Dad wanted a chance
Larry Hoffer
I've always been utterly captivated by Kent Haruf's storytelling ability. In novels like Plainsong and Eventide, the simplicity of his writing was used to such terrific advantage. The characters he creates are everyday people with everyday challenges (for the most part), and in a world where all too often more is more, his stories don't dwell on unnecessary drama yet touch your heart and make you think.

The same holds true for Haruf's newest novel, Benediction. In the small town of Holt, Colorado
Lynne Spreen
Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook ( and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a lit
Mimi Jones
Beautiful, spare, deeply human and richly spiritual book by the poet of the harsh plains of the American West. Set in Holt, CO, this latest novel in the cycle that included PLAINSONG and EVENTIDE centers on "Dad" Lewis, dying of cancer, and his wife of 40-some years, Mary. Their daughter Lorraine comes home to care for Dad; she works in Denver as some kind of manager and Dad tells her he wants her to take over the running of the hardware store that has been his life. Lorraine, like every other c ...more
I noticed that I’ve given all of my Kent Haruf reads 3 stars, yet I do consider him one of my favorite authors. To me that says that his stories are very likeable, plain and simple, yet consistent and rewarding in their own way. Benediction is yet another story of Americana, flawed characters, living very simple lives; but this one gets 4.5 stars from me. Don’t expect a lot to happen here. Just be patient, go with the flow, and you’ll get the point, and probably love the characterizations as I d ...more
Valerie Walley
A masterpiece. I read it pretty much in one sitting (which is very rare). All I could think about when I was reading it was that one rarely reads work as masterful as Eudora Welty's. It also reminded me of another all time favorite - A Death in the Family by James Agee. I've loved his other books but with the writing alone, the unfolding of the stories within lives, the long last summer on the beautiful plains and in the little town with its goings on, the love that the author has for and gives ...more
There's an Americana folk rock band I dig called Frontier Ruckus; they aren't mainstream (google "silverfishes" or "black holes" for a sampling), and they make their points by singing about the normal, everyday parts of life that when looked at cumulatively comprise our lives and tell our stories. This book does just that...describes "the precious ordinary" through the sometimes sad, sometimes redemptive journey a family goes through as they watch their dad succumb to a short battle with cancer. ...more
Kent Haruf's writing is straightforwardly simple without any fancy gimmicks, yet it is powerful and compelling and pulls at your heartstrings. He doesn't say anything that isn't necessary, yet what he says is perfect and moving.

Benediction sort of reminded me of Stoner by John Williams because the story is about plain-spoken ordinary people living ordinary lives in a small town. Yet Haruf enables us to see beauty in what appears to be so ordinary.

Dad Davis is dying and only has a few weeks to li
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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 ...more
More about Kent Haruf...

Other Books in the Series

Plainsong (3 books)
  • Plainsong (Plainsong, #1)
  • Eventide (Plainsong, #2)
Plainsong (Plainsong, #1) Eventide (Plainsong, #2) The Tie That Binds Where You Once Belonged Our Souls at Night: A novel

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“And so we know the satisfaction of hate. We know the sweet joy of revenge. How it feels good to get even. Oh, that was a nice idea Jesus had. That was a pretty notion, but you can't love people who do evil. It's neither sensible or practical. It's not wise to the world to love people who do such terrible wrong. There is no way on earth we can love our enemies. They'll only do wickedness and hatefulness again. And worse, they'll think they can get away with this wickedness and evil, because they'll think we're weak and afraid. What would the world come to?

But I want to say to you here on this hot July morning in Holt, what if Jesus wasn't kidding? What if he wasn't talking about some never-never land? What if he really did mean what he said two thousand years ago? What if he was thoroughly wise to the world and knew firsthand cruelty and wickedness and evil and hate? Knew it all so well from personal firsthand experience? And what if in spite of all that he knew, he still said love your enemies? Turn your cheek. Pray for those who misuse you. What if he meant every word of what he said? What then would the world come to?

And what if we tried it? What if we said to our enemies: We are the most powerful nation on earth. We can destroy you. We can kill your children. We can make ruins of your cities and villages and when we're finished you won't even know how to look for the places where they used to be. We have the power to take away your water and to scorch your earth, to rob you of the very fundamentals of life. We can change the actual day into actual night. We can do these things to you. And more.

But what if we say, Listen: Instead of any of these, we are going to give willingly and generously to you. We are going to spend the great American national treasure and the will and the human lives that we would have spent on destruction, and instead we are going to turn them all toward creation. We'll mend your roads and highways, expand your schools, modernize your wells and water supplies, save your ancient artifacts and art and culture, preserve your temples and mosques. In fact, we are going to love you. And again we say, no matter what has gone before, no matter what you've done: We are going to love you. We have set our hearts to it. We will treat you like brothers and sisters. We are going to turn our collective national cheek and present it to be stricken a second time, if need be, and offer it to you. Listen, we--

But then he was abruptly halted.”
“That was on a night in August. Dad Lewis died early that morning and the young girl Alice from next door got lost in the evening and then found her way home in the dark by the streetlights of town and so returned to the people who loved her. And in the fall the days turned cold and the leaves dropped off the trees and in the winter the wind blew from the mountains and out on the high plains of Holt County there were overnight storms and three-day blizzards.” 3 likes
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