2021 & 2022 Reading Challenge discussion

Plainsong (Plainsong, #1)
This topic is about Plainsong
note: This topic has been closed to new comments.
171 views
ARCHIVE 2017 > Plainsong (Plainsong #1)

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Mary Pat (last edited Jan 31, 2017 08:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Pat | 2186 comments This thread is to discuss Kent Haruf‘s book, Plainsong.


***Please remember to mark spoilers.***

Participants: Mary Pat, Lynn, Eva


Mary Pat | 2186 comments Suggested break down of reading so that you can check in and let us know how you're doing. The following breakdown is purely a suggestion and is therefore not set in stone.

Rather than putting dates for each section I've done it so that it takes into account that not everybody will necessarily have the book at the same time.

Week 1: 75.25
Week 2: 75.25
Week 3: 75.25
Week 4: 75.25



Lynn (lmelliott) | 686 comments Mary Pat - I've got my copy from the library. My in-person book group will discuss it on Feb. 15..... ready when you are.


message 4: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva | 134 comments I'd like to join! My copy will only arrive next week, but I'll try and catch up as soon as possible.


Mary Pat | 2186 comments Lynn wrote: "Mary Pat - I've got my copy from the library. My in-person book group will discuss it on Feb. 15..... ready when you are."

I am saving this book for a little bit later in the month (second week?) as it is the shortest book I am committed to in February and I suspect it will be a quick read for me.

I am very much looking forward to this read after Our Souls At Night. I LOVED that story and it sold me on Kent Haruf. It is a shame he is no longer here to write more! (He passed away.) Have you read any of his other books?


Mary Pat | 2186 comments Eva wrote: "I'd like to join! My copy will only arrive next week, but I'll try and catch up as soon as possible."

Great! I will add you to the list of participants!


Lynn (lmelliott) | 686 comments Mary Pat wrote: "Lynn wrote: "Mary Pat - I've got my copy from the library. My in-person book group will discuss it on Feb. 15..... ready when you are."

I am saving this book for a little bit later in the month (s..."


I read and enjoyed the Plainsong Trilogy. I own, but have been refusing to read, his last book. I know it's silly, but I love his style so much I'm saving it for a rainy day.


message 8: by Mary Pat (last edited Jan 31, 2017 07:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Pat | 2186 comments Lynn wrote: "Mary Pat wrote: "Lynn wrote: "Mary Pat - I've got my copy from the library. My in-person book group will discuss it on Feb. 15..... ready when you are."

I am saving this book for a little bit late..."


OMG, I didn't realize Our Souls At Night was his last book! It is a perfect book for a rainy day...it is story I treasure...and it has the most evil character - EVER!!! You will immediately know who I mean when you read it and will message me! :)


message 9: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva | 134 comments You two make me very curious about this author! Tbh I hadn't heard of Kent Haruf before (yes, living under a rock it seems), but am so looking forward to starting Plainsong now!


Mary Pat | 2186 comments Eva wrote: "You two make me very curious about this author! Tbh I hadn't heard of Kent Haruf before (yes, living under a rock it seems), but am so looking forward to starting Plainsong now!"

Eva, I found Our Souls at Night on Goodreads when I was trolling what other people were reading for challenges and I am ever so glad I did! It is not something I would normally pick up but it is a wonderful book! I found his writing to be so clean and true and yet full of depth. And his characters are real and interesting and touched me. It is why I wanted to read the Plainsong series!


Mary Pat | 2186 comments We are at the end of the first week of February! Have you made any progress with this book?

I am about 50 pages into it so far. It is a refreshing change from my usual fare and I find his writing to have clean, simple beauty to it. Looking forward to more!


message 12: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva | 134 comments Mary Pat, that's one of the main reasons why I like Goodreads: it'll make you discover books you otherwise might never have heard of!
I'm really looking forward to start reading Plainsong and was hoping my copy might have arrived by now, but no such luck! In hindsight I should have just downloaded the Kindle version - but well, in hindsight! :-) Hope, you'll enjoy Plainsong just as much as Our Souls at Night!


Mary Pat | 2186 comments I am just over half way through this book and I LOVE it! The characters are so real and I can picture them so easily! Haruf writes with such clarity and compassion for the life these folks live, you can't help but feel like you know them. I also feel he truly captures the lifestyle they lead.

I am developing an extra special fondness for the McPheron brothers. (Something just occurred to me - are Ike and Bobby a mirror of the McPheron brothers? How they might have been when they were younger? Hmm.)


KellI Preston | 156 comments I am not participating in this as I have already read it but I just wanted to say YEA!!!!! I love, love, love Kent Haruf and being in Colorado he is a state treasure, although he passed away right before Our Souls At Night Was published. This was the first book of his I read and I immediately plowed through his others, and then Our Souls At Night when it came out. If you love this you must read the next two in the Trilogy. Not many characters are carried over for long term in the books but the McPheron brothers are in the second one and others are mentioned from time to time. What makes it a trilogy is the continuation of the town. Love him!

Hallmark, I think, made a movie out of this book that Kent didn't like because they glossed it over and left out the gritty stuff, made it not what it was intended to be. But then there was a play done of it that premiered here in Denver that he did approve of as it followed the guidelines he wanted.

I'm excited to check back and see what you all think when you are done and if you fall in love with this author like I did.


Mary Pat | 2186 comments I am ecstatic that I found Kent Haruf! And so very sad that he is not here to write more. And the McPherons brothers have my heart eternally! :)


message 16: by Lynn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynn (lmelliott) | 686 comments I love the writing. It's plain and sparse. It echoes the characters and setting. There are barely any adjectives used in descriptions but somehow it's very visual. I just got through the cow vaccine chapter and felt such affection for the McPheron brothers again.

Mary Pat, I never thought about the pairs of brothers as significant but I think you're right. The brothers do everything together. I wonder if the two high school boys in the abandoned house with the girl are another mirror? Is the work just so heavy that pairs are required?

So glad I'm reading this!


message 17: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva | 134 comments I finished the cow vaccine chapter last night as well, but - as this is my first Kent Haruf novel - the McPheron brothers were new to me. Are they important in one of Harufs other novels?
I have to agree with everything that's been said up to now about his writing though: I love this kind of restrained, sparse writing that still manages to convey and show so much! I immediately started to care for all the characters and want to know what'll be happening, even though it's "only" a depiction of day-to-day life.
Haruf combines the cruel and beautiful aspects of daily lives so well: the cow scenes are actually pretty gruesome to read, but then their is also the kindness of the older brothers and the caring between father and sons. When Viktoria goes to see the doctor, it is all about the humiliating and uncomfortable examination, but then the doctor manages to give her some comfort. The old woman the boys want to collect the paper money from, is at first not very easy to warm to, but then turns out to be quite nice to the boys. And so on. The scenes are all written in this kind of "it-is-what-it-is" style, but still manage to have a strong impact.


KellI Preston | 156 comments The McPheron brothers are important in the second novel, Eventide, and are mentioned very briefly in the third novel, Benediction. A lot of years have passed between the first and third novel. I love how his books show that life is messy and not everything can be tidied up for the ending chapter.


Eva wrote: "I finished the cow vaccine chapter last night as well, but - as this is my first Kent Haruf novel - the McPheron brothers were new to me. Are they important in one of Harufs other novels?
I have to..."



message 19: by Lynn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynn (lmelliott) | 686 comments I really enjoyed this book for the second time. My in-person book group will discuss this Wednesday and I hope they like it (since I recommended it).

I'd like to join in the discussion when you read Eventide.


Mary Pat | 2186 comments Sounds like everyone has made great progress as we enter the third week of February. Personally, Kent Haruf quickly became a favorite author and I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series!


message 21: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva | 134 comments Finished the book a few days ago, but my original enthusiasm about Plainsong was a bit dampened. And I can't quite put my finger on it why.

So, I started poking around in the reviews and some of the negative reviews mention the "blatant misogyny" in the book. According to these reviewers the female characters are merely shown as sexual objects with no proper character development. For example, even when describing the rape scenes Haruf still just follows the male gaze by showing us the body of those teenage girls whereas the male counterpart is hardly mentioned.

I'm not sure yet I can fully agree with that criticism: yes, I really wanted to know more about Victoria than the author offered. She just seemed to make all her decisions in a "lights-are-on-but-nobody's-home" mode. And I wanted to know more about the mother of those two young boys - she obviously suffered from some mental illness, but this was never mentioned or explained.

On the other hand, we don't really get an insight into any of the characters. And life for women in those communities probably isn't all about equal rights.

What did you think? Is the novel misogynist?


message 22: by Lynn (last edited Feb 20, 2017 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynn (lmelliott) | 686 comments Eva wrote: "Finished the book a few days ago, but my original enthusiasm about Plainsong was a bit dampened. And I can't quite put my finger on it why.

So, I started poking around in the reviews and some of t..."


One of the women I discussed this book with felt the females were discussed as commodities....same as the heifers and pork bellies. I can see the argument in terms of the girl having sex in the abandoned house. She does whatever her powerful boyfriend asks of her. That seems more like coercion and prostitution than rape to me......was there a rape scene I've forgotten? Bobby and Ike watching through the window is the same innocent and awed gaze that watches a horse autopsy.

I don't think the women are portrayed any less sympathetically than the men. The whole book seems to shuns emotion; it seems very stoic and old-school cowboy. None of the characters' thoughts or motives are explained. We as readers are just witnesses to the plain flatness of everything in the book.

I think the book is balanced since no characters have emotional complexity. What I love about Plainsong is it's laconic Western voice and tenderness (and cruelty).


message 23: by Mary Pat (last edited Feb 20, 2017 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Pat | 2186 comments Interesting perspectives! I saw this book as more of a "slice of life" read where the characters are representative of the environment they live in. These characters seemed very real to me and their experiences were believable as things that really happen in a small town out west. Some other thoughts...

I had the impression that Victoria's mother beat any fight out of her over many years (at least emotionally) so I was not surprised that she was dazed by all that happened. I think she was just starting to see different possibilities toward the end of the book. (She did stand up to the father of her baby at the end.)

The description of the sex scene in the empty house was from the perspective of two very young boys who were probably fascinated and terrified at the same time. The way it was written seemed appropriate to their viewpoint.

I thought the teenaged woman who consented to sex in the empty house was the weakest female character. She did not stand up for herself or for the young boys when they were terrorized. Her only goal seemed to be to keep her man.

I found the old lady who baked cookies with the boys and the teacher who helped Victoria to both be strong women albeit in a typical Old West fashion. Even the boys' mother, while clearly struggling with depression, had the strength to leave and try to figure things out. (She did fail but she tried.)

All in all, I felt these were real events that do happen in real life and the book is a well written picture of those events.

(Haruf was a Hemingway fan and I can see the influence in how this book is written.)


Mary Pat | 2186 comments We are entering the last week of February! We will start the next book in the series, Eventide, in March!


back to top
This topic has been frozen by the moderator. No new comments can be posted.
unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

Plainsong (other topics)
Eventide (other topics)
Benediction (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Kent Haruf (other topics)