105 of 109 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully told story of life in a small town on the Great Plains,
This review is from: Benediction (Hardcover)
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In this novel in what must now be considered Haruf's "Holt, Colorado" series, the central character is "Dad" Lewis, a man at the end of his life. With the assistance of a hospice nurse, Dad is being cared for at home by his wife and middle-aged daughter in his final weeks. Although a central theme is Dad's internal process of coming to peace with his life and impending death, a number of other stories are told simultaneously: The son is estranged from the family, and no-one even knows where he is; a minister who already has a troubled past gets into further trouble with his church in Holt; a neighbor is raising her grand-daughter; a mother and daughter who are friends of the Lewis family have their own stories to tell.
Kent Haruf is a masterful writer and story teller. Any one of his characters in this book could be the basis for his next book -- I can hardly wait to find out which one he will choose for his next Holt novel, as you want to know more about each of his characters: Not a single one is boring or two dimensional. As someone who grew up in eastern Nebraska, and traveled quite a bit in the area he describes (I have a number of cousins in western Nebraska), I thought he got the character of the people right -- slow to change but willing to change if convinced that the change is needed; kind but taciturn; a sense of community but ruggedly independent; generally fair and principled, but sometimes behaving badly.
My only complaint (other than the fact that my review copy was missing 9 pages!) is that Haruf has adopted the contemporary fad of not using quotation marks. For most dialogue, I managed to separate dialogue from description without the quotation marks, but there were paragraphs where I had to reread a few sentences to figure out if someone was speaking, and if so, who. They invented quotation marks for a good reason: it makes it so much easier to read a book! In a day when fewer people are reading, why go out of your way to make reading harder because it looks more literary? Haruf is a brilliant writer and doesn't need to worry about publishing fads.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 4, 2013 1:40:59 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 1:53:09 PM PST
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2013 3:13:02 PM PST
Sky Sox Wiz says:
I was expecting a disappointment after reading your description of the lacking quotes but found that it actually made the book flow more easily and kept me a little more alert to whose voice it was. Any writer with the skills and resume of Haruf is welcome to experiement with little literary devices. Good review!
Posted on Mar 11, 2013 8:47:06 PM PDT
Gail A. says:
Oh, man, I'm so glad you mentioned the lack of quotation marks. I just finished reading Plainsong, and that drove me crazy! I feel it's a cheap gimmick; a false attempt at "spare" writing, but all it did is transfer the effort to the reader. I'll never read another book like that, and it diminishes this author's work. I felt used, and that the author assumed I was too stupid to realize it's a trick.
Posted on May 2, 2013 8:30:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 2, 2013 8:31:44 AM PDT
You might not like the absence of quotation marks for dialogue, but it is not a fad, a gimmick, or new. It is a time-honored tradition in literature; other writers, going back many years, have used it as a stylistic device. I believe Haruf uses it deliberately in keeping with the simple, taciturn, reserved way of his characters' speech, and it works for me. It's like reading anything new: at first it may be difficult and stops you up, but at a certain point you stop noticing it and it becomes part of the experience of reading the book.
Posted on Jul 11, 2013 5:36:09 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2013 5:37:40 AM PDT
The theme of the book is interesting to me, but before I take the trouble to read it, I have a question (on a topic more important to me than the presence or absence of quotation marks). Although I am getting older, I am still relatively healthy. However, I know that I will die; something no one is ever really ready for. I am (and always have been) an atheist. I have friendly, intelligent, tolerant, helpful (and very religious) neighbors where we live in an isolated rural area who have just broke off contact with me because I refused to pretend I believe in God or an afterlife. Obviously, this book involves some religious themes. As an atheist, will I find the book tiresome and wearisome? Thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2013 6:04:02 AM PDT
Sorry to hear of your troubles. How typical of a "gang of Christians."
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2013 6:04:59 AM PDT
Agreed. It's silly, if not just plain lazy.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2013 10:21:58 AM PDT
I don't like stereotypes. I disagree that anything is "typical" of Christians except that they believe in (or profess to believe in) something I don't believe in. I appreciate your responding to my comment, but I would prefer that someone respond by answering my question about the book.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2013 4:33:18 PM PDT
I don't see where your question is...?? I think there are "typical" things. Pollsters determine these factors and design ad campaigns around them to appeal to certain groups. Are they nuts? I don't think so. To say something is typical is not to say the comment is all inclusive.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2013 4:59:32 AM PDT
I find religious belief interesting. I don't agree with it. It can be explored in interesting ways in both non fiction and in fiction books. If a novel explores the topic in interesting ways I might want to read it. If the theme of the novel is something along the lines of, "Believe in Jesus, you will go to Heaven," than I am probably not interested in spending the time. I don't know how to better explain what I am asking. It would take me less time to check out the book from the library and read it than to continue this discussion here, I guess. But thank you for replying.