29 August 2013

Review: Benediction by Kent Haruf

Benediction by Kent HarufKent Haruf seems to have a window that looks deep into the human condition. He writes with such honesty and beauty that no gimmicks are needed; no twisty plot, no slapstick comedy, just the truth of what it's like to live an ordinary life.

In the years before I blogged, I read his Eventide and Plainsong, both of which take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, a few hours east of Denver. Benediction, published this spring, takes us back to Holt and focuses on "Dad" Lewis, the seventy-seven-year-old owner of the hardware store.

In the heat of a High Plains summer, Dad waits at home for his terminal cancer to get the best of him. Next door, eight-year-old Alice, recently orphaned, settles in to a new town and gets used to living with her grandmother. Lorraine Lewis returns from Denver to ease her mother's burden and to be near her father. The elderly Johnson women help out where they can, and the new reverend hopes to offer direction and comfort to his flock.

The characters in Benediction are as real as your neighbors. Each has been shaped by everyday circumstances: widowhood, rough childhood, fortunate and unfortunate marriages, bad decisions, death, and success. In Holt, the small crises of daily life (a girl gets temporarily lost, a boy is hurt in love) mingle comfortably with the bigger questions faced by the adults (forgiveness for past wrongs, the future of a family after death).

Haruf doesn't offer us spine-tingling thrills but lets us see the way of things by introducing us to contemporary life in small-town America. Although I loved many scenes in Benediction, it was Dad Lewis's death with dignity and the love and respect of his wife and daughter that will stay with me the longest.

Open your heart to the people of Holt and give yourself over to Haruf's simple, profound, and honest prose.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio; 8 hr 54 min) read by Mark Bramhall, whose thoughtful reading brought Haruf's characters to life. Leaving sentimentality behind, Bramhall nonetheless infused his narration with the perfect emotional level, so we feel both the elation of women swimming on hot summer's day and the sadness of friends saying good-bye for very last time. A don't-miss listen.

Random House / Knopf, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780307959881
Source: Review (both print and audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Sandy Nawrot 8/29/13, 6:58 AM  

OK I'm going to see about finding this audio. For some reason, I just love that title and the cover. I worried, though, that it might be too gentle for me, but audio has a way of getting past that for me.

Beth Hoffman 8/29/13, 9:24 AM  

Wonderful review! I have this book on my iPad and hope to read it soon.

bermudaonion 8/29/13, 9:28 AM  

This sounds like a beautiful book!

Anonymous,  8/29/13, 1:25 PM  

I like the review you make for this, and I like how the book seems to be structured... but I already seems to be too weak for it and I could brak down and cry too often!! Real life books really toches me. xoxo


Col (Col Reads) 8/29/13, 4:48 PM  

This sounds like a perfect audiobook. I have never heard of this author, but I am putting the book on my audio TBR.

Lisa 8/29/13, 8:17 PM  

So glad to hear that this one lives up to expectations. I've read both Eventide and Plainsong and loved them both.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 8/29/13, 8:24 PM  

This was my first Haruf novel and I really enjoyed it as well.

The Solitary Cook 8/30/13, 12:17 AM  

I listened to Plainsong on audio, and anticipate that this book will be equally captivating. Thank you for such a thoughtful review.

JoAnn 8/30/13, 11:04 AM  

I enjoyed reading Plainsong and Eventide years ago, but Mark Bramhall is a favorite, so I'll check this out on audio!

Cathy746books 8/30/13, 3:21 PM  

Plainsong is a stunningly beautiful book. This sounds equally as good and I love the idea of 'reading' it as an audiobook, his prose seems to beg to be read aloud!

Anonymous,  9/1/13, 11:39 PM  

I have not read anything by this author, but I plan too. Thank you for the lovely review. I look forward to reading Benediction myself.
-Dilettantish Reader

Daryl 9/3/13, 8:06 AM  

another good one, thanks

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