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(Plainsong #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  55,942 ratings  ·  4,524 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—
Paperback, 301 pages
Published August 22nd 2000 by Vintage (first published October 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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4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  55,942 ratings  ·  4,524 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 lit
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Welcome to the small town of Holt, Colorado and its surround countryside. I am not sure how it happened that I read this trilogy completely backwards, but now that I have read the last one (the first one last as any good backwards reader will tell you), I can now see where the feuds started, where the marriages broke down, where new relationships were formed, where people lived – together and apart – and how their individual stories began to intertwine with those of their neighbours, their frien ...more
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-us
Plainsong is my second Kent Haruf novel and an easy 5 stars!
This powerful tale of small town life is set in Holt, a rural community near Denver in Colorado.
The small cast of carefully drawn characters struggle with the challenges and quiet disasters of life.
A young girl copes with an unplanned pregnancy, a school teacher lives through a marriage break up, his young sons try to make sense of the troubled world they find themselves in and two elderly brothers live in frigid isolation on their cat
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a private, introverted person. I don't enjoy debates or big flare-up arguments, with loud splotches of emotion. Whack! There's some emphatic feeling right there, all messy on the floor. Maybe it's my Canadian-ness, or a result of my upbringing in a house where my parents always kept their troubles quietly to themselves.

As a result of this personality trait, it follows that I don't like BIG CAPITAL LETTERS, loads!!!!!!!! of exclamation marks, or all kinds of emphasis, bejewelling and explana
Beautiful, a beautiful book.
Thanks to all the good Goodreads friends who kept recommending this book to me.
Especially the relationship and love between the gentle old farmer brothers Harold and Raymond McPheron and the young and pregnant Victoria, who they take into their home after her mother cast her out, is heartfelt.
Wonderful writing, beautiful scenery... Great story.
I like the description on the back cover: A novel of haunting beauty, Plainsong explores the grace and hope of every human
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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,
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those with melodious souls
Recommended to Dolors by: Jan Rice
Shelves: read-in-2017, dost
The stories displayed in this novel are simple and unadorned, both by the mundane events going on in the lives of these ordinary characters, and by the sober style of Haruf’s prose, which brings them to life. But when you sing these plain tunes together, a canon of imitations of melody, recurrent patterns and apparently disparate circumstances, compose a more colorful, richer symphony that is anything but simple.

In the small community of Holt, Colorado, Tom Gurthie, a high school history teacher
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Three Soothing Kombolóia

Like beading three kombolóia (strings of "worry beads" used in Greek culture), Kent Haruf weaved together three story threads, tight and tranquil, to bring honor to seven residents of fictional Holt, a small town on the Colorado high plains east of Denver, and their bonding together in three types of love, the familial, the philia and agape, to hurdle the predicaments life throws their way.

Haruf wrote in such quiet, dulcet prose that reading his novels is calming, therap
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I have had this book on my shelf since 2012, when I first started collecting books to read for an Around the USA challenge that I planned at that time to finish in a year. Five years later I'm still working on it (I get easily distracted) but after discussing another novel by Kent Haruf on Reading Envy, I felt compelled to move this one up the list.

The story moves between different characters, and the chapters are named after the characters being followed. It is always very clear where you are!
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
My second book by this author and it was just as beautiful as the first. Haruf had such a light touch with words making everything seem simple and calm. Basic vocabulary, only the most necessary dialogue and no long inner monologues means everything is shown not told. And Haruf knew exactly how to use words to show.

The characters draw the reader in slowly until you start to really care for them and worry about what is going to happen to them. This story portrays small town life in Colorado and a
Dave Clapper
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it
Very endearing characters!! The writing was great, as well as the story. I’m going to have to watch the movie to se if it’s as good as the book. Fingers crossed!!!
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great story!!! Great characters!!! Great writing!!!!
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
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've never read anything like this before. Extraordinary. Loved it.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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

Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
This was an interesting story, well written by this incredible author.

There is a myriad is characters: A pregnant teenager, a married teacher with two boys whose marriage is falling apart because of his wife's mental illness.
There are two wonderful old bachelors who let the girl live with them and then grow fond of her.
All of the characters are well drawn.

I was a little disappointed in the ending, I thought that there should have been more of an idea of what would happen in the future but it end
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Holt, the fictional small town where this story is set, is like a big city compared to the place where I grew up and lived, for what it still is, the biggest part of my life. For better or for worse, nothing about living in a very small and isolated place is a big mystery to me. Add this to Haruf’s beautiful writing style and masterful character development and maybe it becomes quite understandable that not only I loved this story but it also became a totally new reading experience.

Why a totally
Clif Hostetler
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This is a novel about ordinary people forced into unordinary roles. There's a teenage girl kicked out of her home because she's pregnant. There are two old bachelor farmer brothers asked to provide shelter for the girl. There are two 10-year-old boys who's mother has left home, and whom befriend an older woman. The boys' father is a history teacher who is navigating his own issues facing threats for giving a student a failing grade, raising his boys, and losing his wife. These parallel lives bec ...more
Nov 22, 2012 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 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Ron Charles
Apr 30, 2015 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
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Terry Everett
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
remains one of my favorites of Kent Haruf
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Ike & Bobby 2 34 Sep 26, 2018 12:42PM  
Ike and Bobby 1 8 Sep 26, 2018 10:24AM  
Letteratura Postm...: * Quarantottesimo GdL - Canto della pianura di Kent Haruf 40 82 Dec 27, 2017 06:52AM  
Play Book Tag: Plainsong by Kent Haruf - 4 stars 1 18 Dec 22, 2017 07:07PM  
Play Book Tag: Plainsong - Kent Haruf - five shining stars 8 26 Oct 19, 2017 08:07AM  
Quick Question 1 18 Oct 02, 2017 02:36PM  
My favorite book of the last twenty years. 7 94 Sep 22, 2017 01:38AM  

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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

Other books in the series

Plainsong (3 books)
  • Eventide (Plainsong, #2)
  • Benediction (Plainsong, #3)
“Honey, Maggie Jones said. Victoria. Listen to me. You're here now. This is where you are.” 11 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.” 11 likes
More quotes…