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