Plainsong (Plainsong, #1)
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Plainsong (Plainsong)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  27,843 ratings  ·  1,994 reviews
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—...more
Paperback, 301 pages
Published August 22nd 2000 by Vintage Books USA (first published September 21st 1999)
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Steve Sckenda
Dec 10, 2013 Steve Sckenda rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Lovers of the Plains and Minimalism
Recommended to Steve Sckenda by: Ted Posselius
Kent Haruf tells us about two sets of brothers living on the High Plains of Eastern Colorado. Don’t think scenic Rocky Mountains; think flat Texas Panhandle. The minimalist writing of Plainsong mimics the unadorned music of the title as well as the sparse landscape that is home for its characters.

Indeed, the interlocking storylines are melodious, not harmonious. Young brothers, Ike and Bobby, miss their mother, who has moved to Denver because she suffers from severe depression. As the boys cope...more
Mark
This is a quietly beautiful book. I think most Americans -- and maybe others -- are suckers for well-told tales of small town life, even though small towns, and their virtues and vices, are quickly disappearing. This story has finely drawn characters and is centered on the life a high school teacher who is raising his two boys pretty much single handedly as his wife sinks into depression. But the hopeful thread of the story lives in the tale of a young woman who becomes pregnant and must seek he...more
Dave Clapper
Jul 28, 2007 Dave Clapper rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Nance, Kath, Lena, anyone
Oh, what a beautiful book. Haruf's language is so deceptively simple--there's probably not a word in the book beyond sixth grade reading level. But with this simple language, he creates such beautiful, sad, lonely, human people. I'm particularly in love with the McPheron brothers, two elderly bachelor farmer brothers (and they're the single largest reason I think Nance needs to read this book).

Something else about the simplicity of the language--I can't recall a single time that Haruf directly s...more
Mark
Plainsong, and its sequel Eventide, are both beautifully written stories of about simple honest people trying to live their lives as best they can. I cannot overemphasize how well-written these books are. The narrator never intrudes on the story, which may be the best sign of a good writer.
Cheryl
Jan 15, 2013 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cheryl by: Kimbofo
A graceful, quiet yet powerful book. It is a study of small town life, told through several characters in alternating chapters. There is nothing new here -- just everyday lives with the usual problems. Some people have more good than bad in them, some have more bad than good, and a lot of people just don't know how to balance any of that. The crusty old bachelor brother farmers in particular were wonderful characters.
Haruf has an extraordinary ability to create characters that speak directly fro...more
Dem
3.5 stars
Plainsong by Kent Haruf is a beautifully written novel and a nice easy read. This novel tells a simple story describing the lives of some of the residents in Holt, Colorado.
Tom Guthrie is a history teacher at the area high school. He is left to raise two sons Ike and Bobby after his wife abandons him and their family.
Victoria, a 17 year-old high school senior, is thrown out of her house by her crude and bitter mother after she had learned that her daughter is pregnant.
The McPheron...more
Jill
I bought this book in Salem, but didn't read it until I was in Montana, which is fitting for the book. Read it again last week, and as it's been a couple of years, I got to enjoy again, as though for the first time, the evocative language of Haruf's writing.

The texture of the language brought out the taste of a bitter winter Colorado wind, rushing along the flat, barren land. The plain spoken people were aptly described, rendering them not necessarily lovable, but realistic, living their lives i...more
Colin McKay Miller
EDIT: Updated the description to appease comment super fans.

Plainsong is the story of intersecting lives in a small town in Colorado: A teacher (Tom Guthrie), his kids (Ike and Bobby), a pregnant 17-year-old (Victoria Roubideaux), and the elderly bachelor farmers (the McPherons). High school teacher Maggie Jones is the one character tying them together, but she is never given a (third-person) chapter viewpoint like the other main characters. Unlike most of Plainsong, this move is to Haruf’s cred...more
Barbara
Dec 09, 2013 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Debby Sisson
This is a beautiful, tender rendering of a small, mid-western town called Holt and its surrounding communities. Haruf's narrative is simple, yet elegant; sweet, yet realistic, always totally compelling. I experienced many mood swings while reading, from tears to laughter and empathy to outrage.

The characters continually evoke a strong sense of community throughout the novel. It was apparent that nothing remains secret in such an atmosphere, but the inhabitants often played their parts as a large...more
Lucy
The first page of this book has a definition of the word plainsong. It is:

"any simple and unadorned melody or air."

I appreciated this book more than I liked it. The author, Kent Haruf, writes with a vividly clear but simple prose about a small town in northeastern Colorado, a couple of hours from Denver, whose occupants struggle with their choices, their relationships and their opportunities.

Kind of a universal story, honestly, but in this setting - so sparse and empty - Haruf managed to develop...more
Pam
I'll read just about any book that takes place in the Midwest/Great Plains. It seems that there are more than usual using this location lately. We don't have oceans, swamps, mountains, or great forests, but we have lots of sky, and I think that does something to you, when you can see forever.
Judy
I absolutely loved this book. I had downloaded a sample on my Kindle, and I liked it so much that I waited until I could get the book from a bookstore so that I could experience it fully. It follows the lives of some people in a small town in Colorado. It begins quietly, and continues with little ornamentation -- the title seems apt. It is subtle all the way through, but as in musical plainsong, the parts join together, making a greater whole. There is spare punctuation and no quotation marks, a...more
Will Byrnes
Victoria Robideaux is 17 and pregnant. Her mother throws her out and she is taken in, for a time, by the kindly Maggie Jones. But Maggie’s old father is off his rocker and this makes for a dangerous household for Vicky. She winds up with two brothers, Raymond and Harold McPheron, sheltered gentlemen who have spent their entire lives working the same ranch in the home in which they grew up. The love that springs up in this makeshift family is a glory to behold. Dark forces abide in the town as we...more
David Maine
Great book. Very quiet, low-key tone. Multiple characters in a small-town setting in, I think, Wyoming (I read it last year). This book isn't flashy at all, the tone is somewhat elegaic, but he manages to convey a great deal of feeling with simple, eloquent language. There's a whole lot of heart here. If you're looking fos linguistic pyrotechnics, this is the wrong book for you, but if you want something to sink into and be absorbed by, here it is. I look forward to reading his other books.
Patrick
Until I read Kent Haruf, I thought Cormac McCarthy was the only major American novelist who disdained the use of quotation marks around dialog. Now I know that McCarthy is not alone in that idiosyncrasy. In weightier matters, I much prefer Haruf's quiet optimism to the way that McCarthy alternately flirts with or embraces nihilism.

This novel is, I suspect, a meditation on what "community" means, as reflected in some half-a-dozen linked lives tracked over the course of about seven months, from Fa...more
Rachel Bash
I'm from the Midwest, and though I agree with my East and West coast friends about some of its annoying (even madening) attributes (odd worship of football for one), I still believe it has a quiet, plain, yet surprising beauty all its own. This book captures that perfectly--the prose is spare, wiped clean of word-clutter, like the view I get out my window as I drive home across Iowa's corn fields. It's unadorned, but beautiful and communicative for that; because it says so little, what it does s...more
Margitte
I really loved the serene quietness, the honor, integrity, kindness and caring in the book. An American story where the good people still matters. Where loneliness are the common factor in the character's lives and how it is addressed the good ole American way. We need this kind of books in the modern world. I don't know if Holt, Denver really exists, but I wouldn't mind living there amongst those special people! I'm giving it four stars for the atmosphere, message, and intention of the book.
Jeanette
I almost gave it a 5 because the language fits so perfectly into the place and all the people and animals of that place. Excellent writing- lack of standard English punctuations or not. The mood, the expression of "plain" works in elemental and simple reveal of the characters' choices and core emotions. 4.5 star.

There is a feel throughout this book of base human condition sadness, of the failures and reversals inherent in the biologic condition. And for animals too, in their own sphere. But NEVE...more
Lynne Spreen
I read Benediction first, which was my introduction to the beauty of Kent Haruf's writing. Now that I've read Plainsong, I want to buy everything else Haruf has ever written but first I have to catch my breath.

The setting of this story is the high plains outside Denver in a poor ranch town. It won't appeal to everybody. It's not a tropical beach, or a lush forest or a cityscape where you might spot a celebrity or spend a month's pay on a pair of shoes. But it calls to me in the same way as did...more
Annalisa
I get the point of the novel: to give a glimpse of small town life without extravagance. Beauty in simplicity. But I felt more depressed then touched by Haruf's picture of a whole town of people lonely in their own selfish wandering aimlessly without direction. I didn't like any characters in the book, except for maybe the boys who weren't old enough to yet become bitter, mean, and immoral. Nobody else in the book cared about anyone else as they focused on their small lives. Nobody did anything...more
Stephany fisher
A National Book Award Finalist, Plainsong by Kent Haruf provides a peek into the heartbreaks and struggles of a handful of characters in a rural Colorado plains community. In separate stories that find a tender, connected resolution, the book follows three families on their emotional pilgrimages. Abandoned by his despondent wife, school teacher Tom Guthrie endeavors to care for his two boys who become the target of bullies. Pregnant and alienated teenager Victoria Roubideux searches for answers...more
S.
I'm going to have to create a new bookshelf for this: comfort books. Wow, talk about the power of human decency, and fellow feeling. It's set in a plain old boring small town, and there's no hugely compelling plot, yet I read it like my life depended on it. Really, though, sometimes your life might depend on the people like those who populate this book. Though no god-sent twister sucks up the bad guys, the story was certainly idealized. I think. Being from NJ and all.

Anyway, I saw this was nomin...more
Clif Hostetler
This was a "community read" book selected for the Kansas City metro area in the early 2000s. I remember attending a discussion group to talk about the book, but I hardly remember much of the book. Here's a review from the 2013 PageADay Book Lover's Calendar:

Set in a small community on the plains of Colorado, this novel tells the interwoven stories of several beautifully delineated characters. Chief among them is Tom, a high school history teacher whose wife has recently abandoned him and their t...more
Sarah Whitney
Brace yourself to fall into this subtle, character-driven novel. Haruf skillfully brings the reader into the lives of a select collection of individuals living in the rural town of Holt, Colorado. In their stories you will observe a poignant display of humanity. Each of their unique and yet interconnected stories will remind you of why you believe in good people and leave you with a sense of hope. On the contrary, it will, at times, also remind you of the ugliness that lurks in the world as well...more
Cherie
Jun 15, 2013 Cherie rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Venessa
Shelves: fiction
A Read this in a plane ride - could not put it down. Just perfectly lovely, wonderful writing, captivating stories - the pregnant teenager who gets kicked out of her house, lives w her teacher, and then two older cattle farmers; two young boys whose mother slowly loses herself; bad teenagers...really great writing.
Jessica
I have distant relatives from a town that could be the one described in this book. From my few visits there, I'd say the author captured the flip-coin nature of the despair/hope relationship there.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Aug 11, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Those Who Like to Suffer Through Pretentious Literary Techniques
Hated this sooo much and didn't get far in. The book rotates between Guthrie, a teacher; his two young sons Ike and Bobby; a pregnant teen Victoria and two elderly bachelor brothers, the McPherons, in small town Holt, Colorado.

The author writes the dialogue without quotation marks. Now, believe it or not, I love it when authors play with style and interweaving narratives. I loved Chaon's Await Your Reply with seeming unconnected narrative strands that eventually come together. I just finished H...more
J.S. Colley

Plainsong: noun Unaccompanied church music sung in unison and in free rhythm according to the accentuation of the words

When this book was first published, I got the notion it had something to do with religion. Not that I have anything against religious-themed books, it’s just I wasn’t in the mood to read one. I don’t know where, or why, I got the idea, but perhaps my subconscious made the false connection due to the definition of the one-word title. I decided to read Plainsong only after discove...more
Adam
I just finished reading this book in two sittings, running through half of the book each time. It isn't so much that the story compelled me to continue, it is just such simple language that it reads easily and quickly. Still, I found myself skimming so much of the book without actually missing any plot developments that it almost felt like reading Cliffs Notes.

Plainsong is a snapshot of a rural town, complete with the necessary lives intersecting to weave a community story fabric. The problem wi...more
Margaret
Mar 30, 2008 Margaret rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Appreciators of simplicity
Recommended to Margaret by: My friend Jean
The title signifies. This is a story of ordinary people plainly told. The prose is spare and beautiful, and the characters are decent people who try to live virtuous lives. The main characters are a teacher and his family, a female student who is pregnant and unmarried, and two middle-aged brothers who run their family farm. Together, they find their way.
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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...
Eventide (Plainsong, #2) Benediction (Plainsong, #3) The Tie That Binds Where You Once Belonged Colorado Blues

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“Honey, Maggie Jones said. Victoria. Listen to me. You're here now. This is where you are.” 8 likes
“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.” 4 likes
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