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Eventide Hardcover – May 4, 2004

229 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Plainsong Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong, one of the most beloved novels in recent years, has wisely continued the franchise in Eventide, another foray into the prairie town of Holt, Colorado. We meet some of the same people--the McPheron brothers, Tom Guthrie and Maggie Jones, Victoria and her daughter Katie, and are introduced to new ones. Once again, the quirky bachelors Harold and Raymond McPheron, short on conversation and long on heart, form the sweet center of the book. The constants here are the brothers, the landscape--by turns hostile, demanding and renewing--and a few of the locals, whom we meet in varying degrees of their travails and redemption.

Victoria, the young pregnant woman the brothers took in in Plainsong, has gone off to college at Fort Collins, leaving the brothers standing at the kitchen counter, "drinking coffee and talking about how Victoria Roubideaux was doing a hundred and twenty-five miles away from home ... while they themselves were living as usual in the country in Holt County ... with so much less to account for now that she was gone, and a wind rising up and starting to whine outside the house." Much as Seinfeld was called the TV show about nothing, Haruf's books are so low-key and straightforward that a careless reader might miss the fact that they are about everything that life has to offer: love, sorrow, malice, understanding, and the connections that make and keep us human, to name a few.

DJ is an 11-year-old living alone with his grandfather, when he befriends two young girls whose father left for Alaska and decided not to return. Their mother is mired in grief and the three children, abandoned by the adults in their lives, find refuge in an old shed they make habitable. "So for a while the two sisters and the boy lay on the floor under the blankets, reading books in the dim candlelight, with the sun falling down outside in the alley, the three of them talking a little softly, drinking coffee from a thermos, and what was happening in the houses they’d come from, seemed, for that short time, of little importance." One of Haruf's particular gifts is in showing us people who give and take solace wherever it may be found.

An unfortunate disabled couple, parents of two young children, are trying to make their way in a world they cannot fathom. They are assisted by Rose Tyler, their caseworker, who is a friend of Maggie Jones. aggie, who drew Tom Guthrie out of his depression in Plainsong, is once again a catalyst for change when she introduces Rose to Raymond. There is no doubt more to come, as life in Holt, Colorado, continues to evolve and Kent Haruf keeps us informed. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Haruf's follow-up to the critically acclaimed and bestselling Plainsong is as lovely and accomplished as its predecessor. The aging bachelor McPheron brothers and their beloved charges, Victoria and her daughter, Katie, return (though Victoria quickly heads off to college), and Haruf introduces new folks-a disabled couple and their children, an old man and the grandson who lives with him-in this moving exploration of smalltown lives in rural Holt, Colo. Ranchers Raymond and Harold McPheron have spent their whole lives running land that has been in their family for many generations, so when Harold is killed by an enraged bull, worn-out Raymond faces a void unlike any he has ever known. His subsequent first-ever attempts at courtship and romance are almost heartbreaking in their innocence, but after some missteps, he finds unexpected happiness with kind Rose Tyler. Rose is the caseworker for a poor couple struggling so dimly and futilely to better their lives that it becomes painful to witness. Children play crucial roles in the novel's tapestry of rural life, and they are not spared life's trials. But Haruf's characters, such as 11-year-old orphan DJ Kephart, who cares for his retired railroad worker grandfather, and Mary Wells, whose husband abandons her with two young girls, maintain an elemental dignity no matter how buffeted by adversity. And while there is much sadness and hardship in this portrait of a community, Haruf's sympathy for his characters, no matter how flawed they are, make this an uncommonly rich novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (May 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375411585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (229 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on May 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Sara Nelson's book SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME, the author tells us she could not relate to PLAINSONG, that she put the book aside in favor of other books she'd rather read. How could it be, I wondered, that this national reviewer could scorn one of the best novels I've read in the last ten years?

I would assume that once again Nelson will be less than enthusiastic about the sequel. EVENTIDE is one slow-moving story. Haruf fashions scenes where a welfare couple shops for TV dinners at a supermarket. In another, a boy and girl clean out an old garden shed and play Monopoly. In yet another, the McPheron brothers sell their steers at an auction. I don't know how he does it, but Haruf makes these seemingly mundane scenes work. I guess it's because of the heart-tugging humanity they express. We know these people; we see ourselves in them.

I will admit it took me a while to warm to this book. Tom Guthrie and his boys are minor characters for one thing, and as a former teacher, I could relate to him. Right around page ninety or so, this becomes Raymond McPheron's book and you have to be a heartless jerk not to want to hang around with such a mensch. Raymond and Harold are having a hard time dealing with the loss of Victoria and her daughter Katie, who've gone off to college.

Haruf's style is quite spare, but there are hints of Faulkner and Hemingway. Haruf does for Holt, Colorado, what Faulkner did for Yoknapatawpha County. As in the Faulkner novels, the characters are a motley crew. There's a clueless welfare couple who can't seem to do anything right. DJ Kephart, a pre-teen version of Raymond, shepherds his grandfather through pneumonia and stands up for a woman in distress. The welfare couple's uncle is a veritable Simon Legree.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on May 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Three years after the author's previous novel, Plainsong, concluded, the author returns to Holt, Colorado, continuing the story of Raymond and Harold McPheron, elderly ranchers who lived in almost complete isolation until they agreed to provide a safe haven for a scared and pregnant teenager, three years ago. With other familiar characters from Plainsong also returning in minor roles, the novel then broadens to focus on three additional families, whose new stories the author deftly juggles and interweaves. Somewhat more thoughtful and complex than Plainsong, Eventide quickly engages the reader with its unpretentious style, revealing dialogue, and often heart-tugging scenes of difficult lives.

Luther and Betty June Wallace are some of Haruf's most beautifully drawn characters. Extremely limited in their understanding, they receive professional assistance in everything from budgeting to parenting classes, anger management, and lessons in cleanliness. DJ Kephart, a small eleven-year-old whose responsibilities make him seem much older, is an orphan, now living with his elderly, often bed-ridden, grandfather, for whom he does all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. He and his neighborhood friends, Dena and Emma Wells, whose father is in Alaska, spend their free time turning an abandoned shed into a playhouse, a peaceful, make-believe home where adults do not intrude. Suddenly, separate acts of fate, involving the McPheron brothers and each of these three families, upend all their lives and set in motion a series of events which will change them forever.

Death, illness, injury, abandonment, abuse, and the arbitrary harshness of fate all contribute to emotional crises the characters must find the strength to overcome.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By jeanne-scott on June 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While the main characters from Haruf's PLAINSONG begin this book, the MacPheron brothers (whom I adore!!) this is not truly a continuation of that novel. EVENTIDE is the story of several families that give the word dysfunctional a brand new definition. (This is a much sadder book than PLAINSONG.) In this novel several fammilies in a small town face unrelenting hardtimes and truly have their backs up against the wall. Not all the families cope with the situations that face them. Some make the worst decisions possible leading to more pain and suffering. For others it is a hard scramble just to keep their head above the proverbial water. One of the bright spots of this novel is Rose, she is interesting , real and an absolute delight. Raymond MacPheron however is the shining star of this novel, his grittiness, his integrity and his desire to lead a meaningful life give this novel it's inner light. Kent Haruf creates with an honest heart, an open soul and a simplicity of the written word.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kirk F. Sniff on September 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Kent Haruf's novels contain large lessons. His first novel, The Tie That Binds, was about duty and its costs, and his best known novel, Plainsong, was about transcending loneliness. Eventide is about courage and its sniveling evil twin, cowardice.

Haruf takes us back to the small town of Holt, Colorado -- a complicated but true place where kindness and cruelty exist side by side in the same proportions (or should I say disproportions) as the rest of the outside world. Here we find familiar characters from Plainsong, most notably the kind Maggie Jones, the ever capable Tom Guthrie, the stoic and funny McPheron brothers, and their triumphant ward, Victoria Roubidoux. And while they provide the comfortable base on which this new story is built, they are joined in Eventide by equally intriguing characters, such as Mary Wells, an abandoned mother, Rose Tyler, a dedicated social worker, and especially the courageous DJ Kephart, an 11-year old boy who has never gotten a break in his brief life but who transcends all with character and a moral strength that comes from some unknown place.

Courage is found throughout Holt. Raymond McPheron's quiet courage overcomes the loss of "his dead brother, gone on ahead". Mary Wells abandons self-pity to forge a new life and DJ forges ahead and literally strikes out at the evil he sees around him. Rose Tyler carries her burdens with resolve and strength and her wards, Joy Rae and Richie Wallace, the neglected children of pathetic losers, simply survive.

Unfortunately, where courage resides, cowardice lurks. Haruf's characterizations of Luther and Betty Wallace, the slothful welfare couple, and their vile relative, Hoyt Raines, are brilliant.
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