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Where You Once Belonged Paperback – March 21, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
- Joseph Levandoski, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Like Plainsong and The Tie That Binds, the reader is drawn into a seemingly simple story that simmers with local personality and an undercurrent of conflict. Slowly, Haruf lets you in on the complexities and even when the story here doesn't seem as compelling as his later work, you know there's more going on than you're being told. That Haruf can make the reader believe it's for the better not to know is a testament to his unique storytelling style.
I don't think Where You Once Belong is as powerfully told as Haruf's next books, which earns it a strong three star rating, but I would highly recommend it to any reader who already knows his style or appreciates subtle stories of lives not too unlike our own.
Certainly you are aware of the main plot: gifted kid (at least athletically) has people's respect, marries quickly, leaves town suddenly with money from the farmer's co-op grain elevator, and makes a sudden, while not welcome, appearance eight years later once the statute of limitations on his crime has run out. Some of the characters from Haruf's 'The Tie That Binds' make their appearence again in this story. Sheriff Bud Sealy, Tom Crossman, and Bobby Williams all appear here, but only Sealy's character status really rises above minor. As with Haruf's other books, character development is present, but spare at the same time. The story is told with a rural, detached, but not aloof, feel - something born in the people living on the High Plains. It just 'feels' natural.
As for the ending...it's sudden. I can honestly say I didn't see the book ending the way it did. But do I like it? I kinda think I do. I only finished the story a couple of hours ago, so I might need to ponder it more, but it isn't the nice, clean ending one might expect. The curious person in me wants a sequel to tidy things up - is Jessie ever found? Does she stay with Pat? What is the effect on the boys? What happens to Jack?, etc. But I think I like not knowing. It's not the conventional way, but I respect Haruf for not giving in to the reader's need to have a tidy ending.
That said, if I were recommending Haruf's books to friends, I'd have them start with 'Plainsong.' If they don't like that, chances are they won't appreciate his other works in my opinion. As for me, Haruf's in a very short list of authors from whom I'd buy anything. In fact, if he were to publish the Holt Co. phone book I'd probably buy a copy or two... Yup, I think I would.
In Haruf's second novel, Jack Burdette returns to Holt, Colorado, where he encounters Sheriff Bud Sealey who handcuffs him, then pistol whips him. The story goes on to show us why he got off easy. Burdette is a completely selfish individual, almost a sociopath, who spurns his girlfriend of eight years for a woman he met at a weekend workshop. Burdette has no patience with education, competition (football in this instance) where he can't be the star, or a cushy job that is handed to him after he flunks out of college. Jack is either a spoiled brat or he's got terminal ADHD.
Pat Arbuckle, the narrator isn't introduced until well into the story. He's the editor of the town newspaper and a former classmate of Jack's; he also becomes enamored of Jack's wife when his own marriage fails.
Although this story isn't as good as PLAINSONG, it has its moments. I was most impressed with a minor character who has more humanity than all the members of the Moral Majority put together. When Jack leaves his loyal girlfriend and marries another woman, she hits the skids, drinking and sleeping around. The man I'm talking about is her supervisor at the telephone company where she works. Instead of firing her, he transfers her to another town where her story isn't known. Haruf manages this with just a few sentences, and we never see this character again.
WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED is a short book, only 176 pages, and I was disappointed in the ending (It comes to an almost screeching halt), but I was so absorbed I read it in two days. I'm convinced that Haruf uses real people or composites to fashion these characters. All of us have known a Jack Burdette someplace along the way. Unfortunately they're more numerous than that telephone company supervisor.