12 July 2009

Review: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

In the years before I started blogging, I kept notes about the books I read. Every once in a while I post mini-reviews of books I read in my pre-blogging days. Enjoy.

Plainsong, set in a small plains town in Colorado, revolves around two groups of three people—a schoolteacher and his two young sons and two bachelor ranchers and the pregnant teenager they take into their lives. The common thread among them is another schoolteacher, who lives alone with her senile father. Each character's personality has been molded by a difficult or tragic event, but each one faces life head-on, bucking up in the stereotypical Midwest fashion. Rather than wallowing in the negative, Haruf punctuates the novel with laugh-out-loud moments, especially when he focuses on the aging bachelor McPheron brothers.

Don't be thrown off by the publisher's summary of this novel, which implies that the book is a bit of a soap opera. The characters are so well drawn that it is easy to care about what happens to them. Haruf reveals the traits of the seven main characters only as the plot requires so that there is always a sense of the private nature of each person. There is a strong feeling of reality to the story and setting: Small town life means that almost everyone knows the details of everyone else’s life, from who drives what truck to who is sleeping at whose house.

I listened to this book narrated by Tom Stechschulte, who gave each character a distinct voice. Stechschult conveyed the emotional feel of the novel without letting his dramatization interfere with the flow of the story.

Plainsong was 1999 National Book Award nominee for fiction.

Published by Random House, 2000
ISBN-13: 9780375705854


J. Kaye 7/12/09, 8:04 AM  

I think that is so cool how you kept notes! I really love this cover too.

Care 7/12/09, 8:07 AM  

What a great idea to go back and post thoughts of past reads! I need to make sure I have this on my tbr already because I know I've been wanting to read this...

lilly 7/12/09, 8:49 AM  

I'm glad you reviewed this book and even more glad you liked it. I have it on my shelves somewhere and my eyes do sometimes land on it as a next choice but I still change my mind and leave it off for later. I think it's because I haven't really heard much about it but now that someone finally mentioned it, it will be easier for me to decide on reading it.

bermudaonion 7/12/09, 9:59 AM  

I'm with J. Kaye - I'm very impressed that you kept notes prior to blogging. The book sounds great because of it's character development.

stacybuckeye 7/12/09, 10:39 AM  

This book has always been on my radar. Thanks for the review!

Lenore 7/12/09, 3:09 PM  

I have no doubt that this is excellent. I read his THE TIE THAT BINDS and was very impressed.

Julie P. 7/12/09, 4:36 PM  

I wish I had kept notes about the books I've read pre-blog. I have this book in my basement and have toyed with selecting it for our book club a few times.

Mrs. V 7/12/09, 5:22 PM  

This sounds like an interesting book. I like the way you described the narrative and would interested to see how the author created the privacy for each character.

I noticed that you had previously commented that you would be interested in Beautiful Americans. In case you still are, I am doing a book giveaway with it right now: http://mrsvsreviews.blogspot.com/search/label/Mrs.%20V%27s%20Monthly%20Giveaway

Robin of My Two Blessings 7/12/09, 7:03 PM  

Sounds like an interesting book. Will have to put on my wish list. Great idea - blogging about past reads.

JoAnn 7/12/09, 8:51 PM  

I loved this book, too! I wish I had notes from pre-blogging days. I love the idea of posting these mini-reviews, but I'd have trouble coming up with more than a sentence or two.

mattviews 7/12/09, 11:08 PM  

I'm glad you post your comments and thoughts on this book, which I have seen on numerous occasions, at both used and new bookstores. I'll keep my eye on it.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading 7/13/09, 6:21 PM  

I loved Plainsong! As I too live in a small CO town the characters were very familiar. The theatre in Denver turned this into a play, and it was very good too.

Margot 7/14/09, 6:27 AM  

I like your mini reviews. I need to think about doing the same since I have read so many great books in the past. This one sounds good.

Elizabeth 7/14/09, 10:29 AM  

I read this one a few years back also and thought it was excellent. I remember being so completely engaged in the characters' lives that I dreamed about them for a couple of days after I was finished reading. Great, great novel.

Jenners 7/14/09, 8:29 PM  

I'm so glad to see this!!! "Plainsong" is my P book for the A to Z challenge so I'm stoked you liked it!

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books 7/14/09, 9:05 PM  

Oh, I'm glad you've kept such good pre-blogging notes! Your review really pulls me to read PLAINSONG (which, unlike several of your other commenters ... I knew nothing about until your review!). Thanks :)

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