Monday, December 8, 2014

R.I.P. Kent Haruf

Too often these days, when I go online I find that another favorite author or poet has died.  Today, before I had time to wake up completely, I saw a message that Kent Haruf had died.

I discovered Haruf almost by accident. I hadn't heard any mention of his novels--I thought--but I picked up the audiobook of Eventide for listening as I commuted to work.  The story was so simple, so subtle, I was almost underwhelmed at first.

Then something happened in the story--no spoilers here--and I found myself driving down the road sobbing.  Most people who know me can attest to the fact that I am not much of a crier.  Tender heart. Dry eyes.  In this story, though, something happened to a character that touched me most because of the effect on another character.  Only after I finished this lovely book did I find that it was the sequel to Plainsong.  Both books center around a young girl who becomes a single mother, but the characters I loved the most were two brothers--both single--who worked together on their farm.  At the request of a local teacher, they took in this girl whose family had thrown her out, and they cared for her until her baby was born, even though they had no experience at all.

In the second book Eventide, the young girl goes to college, taking her child with her, but maintains a relationship with these two gentle men. Haruf brings readers into Holt, Colorado, and introduces them to the ordinary but unforgettable citizens who live there. 

In his last novel Benediction, set in the same town, the characters of these two books appear in the background.  I felt a bittersweet pang of remembrance at each mention.  Now I feel a strong urge to look for his other works, just to be sure I haven't missed a gem.

In the meantime, as I'm gathering a stack of books for a friend who just returned her last stack I lent her by mail, I know I'll have to be sure to include Plainsong. It's one of those rare books I feel comfortable recommending to all of my reading friends.

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