73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
I know these people!,
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This review is from: Eventide (Hardcover)
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.
Haruf has the same lyrical cadence as Hemingway. Listen to this: "They left the corrals and walked across the gravel drive to the house and porch where they slapped the dust off their jeans and stomped their boots and went inside and took off their warm jackets and hats, and Raymond washed his hands and face at the sink and started to cook at the old enameled stove." Hemingway, right?
For whatever reason, Haruf also disdains quotation and question marks, and he will often begin a scene without making it clear whose viewpoint it is, leaving it to the reader to figure it out from context clues. The ending will also be disappointing for some. It fades out and lots of the threads are left unresolved, just as in real life.
Eventide is a blue-collar book with blue-collar characters and blue-collar sensibilities and definitely worth your time and money.
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Initial post: May 7, 2015 5:14:06 AM PDT
Carol Devine says:
I read Plainsong, and liked it so much I'm not reading Eventide and have ordered Benediction. I've never been to the Great Plains, but Haruf evokes the scene in ways that make me actually see the places mentioned. I'm not accustomed to many books in which "nothing" happens, but Haruf makes me interested in the nothing, see all kinds of somethings in it, and care about it.
Posted on Jun 28, 2015 8:08:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2015 8:18:28 PM PDT
Thank you for the first sentence of your review. I now know that suffering from the same malady as the author of that title, I will never have to read any of Nelson's reviews or books, ever. So that's one less title clamoring among the millions for my attention. She may be a bright and thoughtful reviewer, but if she did not find Plainsong compelling, then she reads on a different planet than I do, imaginatively speaking, and I could not trust her as a guide in my reading choices. Plainsong was one of the best novels I've read in the last decade, and Eventide was the first novel to make me cry in twenty years. (I think the last one was Richard Powers' first novel, Three Farmers on their Way to a Dance). I also very much agree that the style is Hemingwayesque, but Haruf brings a lot more compassion and heart into those spare, paratactical sentences than Hemingway (God keep him and bless him, for he IS an angel of fiction) ever quite managed.
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