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Kent Haruf:
Plainsong


Kent Haruf
  Plainsong  
Kent Haruf    
interview

excerpt



  Kent Haruf is the author of two previous novels, Where You Once Belonged, winner of a Whiting Foundation Award and a citation from the Pen/Hemingway Foundation, and The Tie That Binds. In Plainsong, Mr. Haruf writes of a town and a few people that are integral to that town's character. His chapters alternate between the experiences of Tom Guthrie, a high school history teacher who is father to two boys, Ike and Bobby, and husband to a wife who is slipping away from them into a deep depression. There is also a seventeen-year-old high school girl named Victoria Robideaux who, on the first day we meet her, is living with her mother but will soon find herself on a journey towards a home and all that is implicit in that word. We also meet the brothers McPheron, two elderly cattle ranchers who live a simple, hardscrabble life where they know no one so well as each other and their livestock and oh, the skies of the Eastern Plains of Holt, Colorado.

Tying all of them together is Maggie Jones, also a teacher at the high school. She is able to understand each of these characters in a way that eludes harsh judgement but requires a formidable and rarely seen maturity as well as a lightness of spirit that attracts these disparate personalities to her wisdom.

The novel opens in the early coldness of autumn and concludes in the late spring warmth of May, rather like a year at school, and much is learned by the characters and Mr. Haruf's readers, both.

The theme that runs through all of these lives is family--the one you're born to and the one you create. We experience, along with these characters, the hard work and satisfaction that are a part of accepting the former and growing into the latter. The intuitive weather vane that directs our paths toward the love we need is a little faulty at times, but with patience and a listening heart it works well enough.

In this issue of Bold Type, you will find a conversation with Kent Haruf as well as an excerpt form Plainsong.
 
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  Photo of Kent Haruf copyright © Kurt Markus

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