Plainsong by Kent Haruf


Well, this book is just gorgeous.  It tells the story of teacher Tom Guthrie, his two young sons, high school student in trouble, Victoria Roubideaux, and the two elderly McPherson brothers.  The McPhersons have lived a solitary, hardworking life on their farm since the death of their parents forty years previously.  The chapters in this book are short and we take it in turns to follow the characters as they go about their business in the small town of Holt, Denver.  Another character, Maggie Jones, doesn’t get her own chapters but is really the link between all the characters.

I love slow moving books about small-town America especially those as well-written as this.  The language is simple yet evocative and full of affection for the characters.  The author lets the words and actions of this characters speak for themselves – we never go inside their heads so we meet them as we would meet a person in the real world.  There is a timeless quality to this book – I spent a while trying to figure out when this book was actually set but eventually gave up because it doesn’t really matter (for the record, I think it was probably set around the time it was published -1999).

This is the first in a trilogy of books set in Holt.  Part of me wants to remember these characters as they are in Plainsong and give them the futures I want them to have.  However, I doubt I’ll be able to resist visiting Holt again.  The second book in the Plainsong trilogy is called Evensong and the third book is Benediction.

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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