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Where You Once Belonged Paperback – March 21, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why is strapping, impulsive Jack Burdette, legendary bad boy and ex-football hero, promptly thrown into jail when he returns to Holt, Colo., after eight years on the run? The reader discovers the answer halfway through this deeply affecting novel. Earlier, we learn how Jack has abandoned his pregnant wife, two small sons, a girlfriend and piles of unpaid shopping-spree charges, but his sins against the town prove to be even more serious. The story is narrated by the editor-publisher of Holt's weekly newspaper; he is transformed from rueful, detached observer to tragic participant in the events, which inexorably unfold to a stunning climax. Haruf captures small-town people with a sharp humor and sympathy worthy of Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology . Not a word is wasted in his brooding drama, which conceals a tender love story in its bruised heart.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Setting dominates Haruf's brief, unhappy novel of stilted lives and desperate actions. Holt is a small wheat-farming community in rural Colorado, its people passive observers of life as if living it were for others. The flat, dusty land that surrounds the town engulfs it in a prison of calm. Narrator Pat Arbuckle, editor of the local newspaper, records the action but is himself unable to act. His counterpart, Jack Burdette, is pure motion. A former local football hero long used to being observed and having his way, he operates on instinct and nearly destroys the town, which is no match for his cunning and brute force. This is an effective second novel from the author of The Tie That Binds. Recommended.
- 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.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Contemporaries ed edition (March 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375708707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708701
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Now that Kent Haruf is finally receiving some long overdue attention for his current (excellent) novel "Plainsong" perhaps the publishers will see fit to re-issue this, his wonderful second book. It is written in the same low-key style as "Plainsong", with the same warm attention to detail, but builds to one of the most devastating, heart-rending conclusions in all of literature. I will give away no more. Not only is this book out of print but, incredibly, it was never issued in paperback! Just read it and don't put it down until the last page.
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Format: Paperback
As I've worked my way backwards through Kent Haruf's catalog of books, I've become increasingly impressed with the seeming simplicity of his writing and how he lets his characters come alive on their own terms instead of his. This allows the reader to understand the characters quirks and motivations in a way that reminds us of relationships with real people. We don't know everything about someone the first time we meet them, instead we learn what they want us to know and draw other conclusions from their actions and what other people let us know about them. In Where You Once Belonged, that is exactly how I grew to know Jack Burdette and the people in Holt, Colorado whose lives he so deeply affected.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This is the final Haruf book I had to read to complete the three he has in print. You will get a wide range of opinions when reading these reviews, but for me, this would be the second place book - behind 'Plainsong', but ahead of 'The Tie That Binds' - in his catalogue.

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.
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A blurb on the back of the book refers to WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED as "A beautifully told parable-simple and stark and true." The only parable I remember is "The Prodigal Son," but it seems to me that a parable should teach a lesson. If Haruf was trying to teach a "moral attitude or religious principle" as Websters defines the word, I can't imagine what it would be.

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.
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