is a critically acclaimed
novel by Kent Haruf
which tells the stories of several individuals whose lives are intertwined
in a small town in eastern Colorado
. The book has received several awards, as well as being a nominee for the 1999 National Book Awards
The story revolves around the small town of Holt, in Holt county, eastern Colorado. Holt is a fictional town that has served as the backdrop and setting for almost all of Haruf's previous stories and novels. The town sort of acts as a composite of the eastern Colorado area, where Haruf spent his childhood. As such, it vividly represents the sense of rural isolationism and small-town community-mindedness that is so common in the high plains area. This is a community far from the hustle and bustle of the big city, a community where everyone knows everyone, a community whose nearest neighbor is almost 40 miles away. The people here are mostly farmers, working just to survive.
Within this town, Haruf introduces us to the lives of several of its residents. Among them, Victoria Roubideaux, a local high school student who, despite being basically a good kid, has found herself pregnant without a husband, and has been kicked out of her home by her mother consequently; Tom Guthrie, a teacher at the high school who, after separating from his depressed wife, works to raise his two sons alone; Ike and Bobby, Guthrie's two children of 9 and 10 years old, who are just beginning to experience life for what it is; the McPherons, two brothers who've spent their lives living and working together on a farm and whose one track lives leave them more than a little naive about their surroundings; and Maggie Jones, another high school teacher and friend of Guthrie's, who manages to keep her life under control despite her senile father and the goings on in the town.
Haruf's style within this book does a lot to help depict the life that the characters lead. Most apparent here is the sense of plainness and straightforwardness that he creates. It fosters the sense that he, like the characters within the novel, is just writing to write, with no extra style or extravagance, just as the characters are simply living their lives from day to day, simply getting along. Especially effective in this is the lack of quotation marks in the book. Haruf even defines the word plainsong on the first page of the novel as "the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air," which fits in perfectly with the simple and unadorned style of the book itself.
I personally found this to be a really great novel. The prose is easy to read, and the plot is easy to follow, yet the story remains interesting despite the overwhelming sense of plainness that the novel gives off. But it isn't
really the plot that makes this book such a good read. It's the characters, who are so well developed in their humanness as to be endearing on a level that few other books I've read have provided. I'd suggest this book to anyone, really. Its a great and original look at familiar people for anyone who lives or has lived in the high plains area or even rural communities in general, and an interesting look at the small-town culture to anyone who isn't familiar with it.
Haruf has just recently published a sequel to this book, titled Eventide, that I haven't had the pleasure of reading yet, but I understand it's just as good as the original.
Amazon - <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375705856/qid=1112897391 /sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/002-4471216-0136808?v=glance&s=books&n=507846>