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Plainsong (Plainsong #1)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  43,101 Ratings  ·  3,301 Reviews
Kent Haruf has received prestigious awards, includinga special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation for his finely-tuned works. Before the opening chapter of this novel, Haruf offers a definition. Plainsong is "any simple and unadorned melody or air." Direct yet elegant, Hatuf's Plainsong is a hymn to the breadth of the human spirit.

A high school history teacher in
Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Recorded Books (first published 1999)
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Velma I believe that some authors prefer to write dialogue sans quotation marks to encourage (force) the reader to slow down the reading process in order to…moreI believe that some authors prefer to write dialogue sans quotation marks to encourage (force) the reader to slow down the reading process in order to increase understanding and savor the prose. An article discussing this idea can be found here. The author of the article doesn't care for the practice, but personally I think, in this case in particular, it supports Haruf's spare style.
Rebecca I taught this novel to high school juniors and seniors. The book was assigned as summer reading, and I paired it with Carso McCullars The Heart Is a…moreI taught this novel to high school juniors and seniors. The book was assigned as summer reading, and I paired it with Carso McCullars The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. (less)
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Dec 10, 2015 Cecily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cecily by: Steve Sckenda
Colorado High Plains, image source:


Peek between the gaps to appreciate the pared-down beauty of this book. At its heart, is absence: the words not used, the thoughts not made explicit, the loved-ones left or lost, the open space in which it is set.

The language is plain, utilitarian, and unsentimental, as are the situations described in the short chapters.

There is no backstory, there are no inner monologues - indeed, most of the characters say litt
A beautifully written novel set in the rural town of Holt, Colorado, Plainsong is a book I will not soon forget. The prose is modest yet so elegant in its simplicity. Nothing is overdone and yet what happens to the characters in this book is far from uneventful. A pair of young brothers that have to learn to adjust without a mother in the home, a teenage girl pregnant and without a home, a father trying to raise his boys on his own, and a pair of staunch old bachelors who are presented with a so ...more
Dave Clapper
Jul 28, 2007 Dave Clapper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, heartbreaking and ultimately redemptive novel.

Set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado in the real life eastern plains of that Rocky mountain state, and adjacent to the great elevations, author Kent Haruf’s somber 1999 novel Plainsong explores the interconnected lives of a group of people living and dying in this western plains town.

Guthrie is a high school teacher raising two young boys and whose marriage is coming to a strange and murky end. Tom Guthrie is a simple western man,
Jul 19, 2016 Camie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plainsong, a simple unadorned melody, is a perfect title for this book, Haruf's style being beautifully spare and yet powerfully moving. This award winning book takes place in a small town on the high plains of Colorado and chronicles the lives of some of it's struggling residents namely a lonely school teacher and his young sons who've been abandoned by their depressed wife and mother, a forgotten inbound widow, a caretaker and her elderly father, two rough on the exterior old bachelor brothers ...more
Feb 03, 2015 Britany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is the book that sneaks up on you...

I didn't realize how invested I was in the characters and their stories, until the author dangles their safety and lives in front of me and I find myself reading in a frenzy to ensure that everything is ok. Sneaky, sneaky.

Holt, Colorado is a small town; seemingly everybody knows everybody and everybody's business. Couple of mundane, typical stories slowly thread themselves into your heart and realize that you've come to love each and every one of them in
Sep 21, 2016 orsodimondo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Anche se non ho mai guidato un vecchio furgone Dodge rosso sbiadito con l’ammaccatura sul parafango posteriore; anche se la mia colazione non prevede uova strapazzate preparate su una padella di ghisa; anche se non incrocio tutti i giorni bambini a cavallo; anche se il giornale non mi viene lanciato ogni mattina sulla porta di casa; anche se nel mio orizzonte non vedo spesso svettare serbatoi per l’acqua e silos; anche se non sono solito passeggiare per Main Street o svoltare
Ron Charles
May 05, 2015 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The glamour of the National Book Awards ceremony blows away the fusty air of the book world every November. Big publishers buy up acres of the banquet hall at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Little houses splurge a year's publicity budget on the $1,000-a-plate dinner. Even without the medals hanging from their necks, the nominees would stick out: New authors appear in ill-advised outfits, like red Nehru jackets or brocade gowns inspired by "King Lear," choices probably pushed on these quie ...more
Haruf's writing is as comforting to me as tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a cold winter day. For a reader who has memories of an idilic growing up when I read his stories I feel like I am going home and I am so glad there are stories that can take me there. The sounds, smells, voices and memories all come alive.

His prose is simple, yet so beautiful and paints such a vivid picture. His characters are earthy, there is no pretense about them, they are everyday people living ordinary
Aug 27, 2015 Zoeytron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an endearing story that is spun from the fabric of small town life in Holt, Colorado. Regular, decent folk at their finest, with just a few bad eggs thrown in for seasoning and texture. If this had been sappy in any way, I would have run for the hills, screaming. Let me assure you, there is an utter dearth of sappiness here, just a lovely story that will make your heart grow two sizes bigger. Not sure how such spare, simple writing managed to penetrate my stony exterior, but it did. I re ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Plainsong Kent Haruf tells a dam good yarn with true-to-life characters and their everyday struggles living in rural Colorado.

The two wacky and wonderful old brothers who readily welcome a 17 year old (pregnant) teen into their home captured my heart early on as well as the two young curious brothers, abandoned by their mother, who befriend a lonely old woman, experience some pretty hard knocks and learn some facts of life by peering thru the window of an abandoned old shed.

While Our Souls at

Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2013 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 10, 2013 Dem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 16, 2016 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plainsong is the second book I’ve read by this author and it is even more wonderful than the first (Our Souls at Night). I’ve been trying to work out why it is I’m so fascinated by Haruf’s writing based on these two books. I can think of a lot of words to describe his prose but the best would be to say that it’s both spare and elegant. Mr. Haruf manages to capture this period of time in the lives of his characters with outstanding emotional nuance, all the while pushing the story forward in a di ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of my all time favorite books...beautifully written and favorite kind of novel. It rang so true to my Eastern Colorado roots. I felt that I personally recognized some of the characters in the story.
Nov 23, 2008 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2015 Tania rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
3.5 stars. A quiet, well-written book about dealing with change and loneliness. I loved all the characters, they were all so sweet and human - I normally prefer characters with more faults, but in this book it worked for me. Special favorites were ... no can't do it, I fell in love with them all. Because of this, I will be reading the 2nd book in the series. The issues and solutions in the book also felt very real - there were no dramatic conclusions, just everyday life happening to everyday peo ...more
Jul 19, 2016 Kelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I need to read this again before summer ends.
Book Concierge
Plainsong – the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air

This definition perfectly describes this gentle, unassuming yet impactful novel. Haruf introduces us to several residents of the small town of Holt, Colorado: Tom Guthrie, a high school teacher struggling to raise his two young sons (Ike and Bobby, ages 9 and 10) after their mother leaves; Victoria Robideaux, a pregnant teenager forced to try to make it on her own; th
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
Sep 08, 2016 Arwen56 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
L’arte di Haruf nel maneggiare le parole è indiscutibile. Raramente ho visto suggerire con tanta efficacia e pochissime, nonché precisissime immagini i sentimenti e le emozioni. La delicatezza e, al contempo, l’incisività con cui si tratteggiano malesseri profondi è straordinaria. Così, semplicemente, la vita viene incontro al lettore, non descritta, bensì solo mostrata, benché limpidissimi siano i perché e i per come.

Il problema è che Haruf trascura completamente “il lato oscuro della forza”, s
Io canto.

Storie la cui realtà è dura e sferzante come il vento freddo che soffia in inverno a Holt, Colorado.
Storie di gente semplice, di una comunità che ruota intorno a poche strade (la Main e la Second onnipresenti, la Chicago street, Railroad e poco altro, quasi che il paese, l'agglomerato, più che altro, sia tutto lì), al bestiame da marchiare, alla scuola dove insegna Tom Guthrie, alle giornate sempre uguali dei solitari fratelli McPheron - scontrosi e ignoranti. Tristi. Indipendenti. - e
Apr 18, 2014 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2016 Carmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Niente può rallegrare le tue giornate quanto la lettura di un romanzo come quello di Kent Haruf, autore che -mea culpa per l'ignoranza- ho scoperto solo di recente.
"Plainsong" altro non è che un suggestivo mosaico di vite quotidiane vissute da personaggi normalissimi: i drammi, le piccole vittorie, gli intrecci, le rivincite e le emozioni si amalgamano tra loro, restituendo al lettore un acquerello intenso e pulsante di vita.
L'autore è abilissimo, attraverso una prosa minimale, a delineare con f
Feb 28, 2016 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holt è una piccola città del Colorado. Una città dal sapore antico e prezioso, dall'atmosfera accogliente e familiare, lontana dall'inquinamento etico del mondo moderno, quasi che il tempo si fosse ben guardato dall'intaccarla con il suo morbo fatale.
Canto della pianura è uno di quei romanzi che parlano della vita, dell'esistenza che trascorriamo ogni giorno, delle difficoltà di un mondo complesso ed egoista, delle battaglie quotidiane che combattiamo, contro noi stessi e contro gli altri. Ce ne
Feb 02, 2016 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Aug 06, 2016 Carole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading a Kent Haruf novel is like comfort food in book form. His writing is so easy to read and simple, yet his characters are in depth and lovable.
I'm glad I've already bought his other books, and look forward to more.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
2016 Reading Chal...: Plainsong (Colorado) 1 10 Jul 24, 2016 08:43PM  
Kindle Book Club ...: Buddy Read, Plainsong By Kent Haruf, Discussion 27 26 Sep 05, 2015 08:56PM  
My favorite book of the last twenty years. 5 61 Dec 24, 2014 08:02AM  
Ike & Bobby 1 14 Dec 20, 2014 07:51AM  
What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Two old farmers take in a pregnant teen [s] 8 65 Nov 20, 2014 08:47PM  
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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)
  • Eventide (Plainsong, #2)
  • Benediction (Plainsong, #3)

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“Honey, Maggie Jones said. Victoria. Listen to me. You're here now. This is where you are.” 10 likes
“A girl is different. They want things. They need things on a regular schedule. Why, a girl's got purposes you and me can't even imagine. They got ideas in their heads you and me can't even suppose.” 7 likes
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