Sunday, August 24, 2008


Let me start this review by thanking my friend Darrah, for loaning me this book. Because if she hadn't loaned it to me, I probably never would have read it. I've walked by this book in various bookstores many times without picking it up because somehow, I had it confused with This House of Sky by Ivan Doig.

I read This House of Sky for a class in college about 10 years ago and HATED it. It was all about horses and the old timey Midwest and I just remember being bored to tears (for those who don’t know me, I have a strange, but strong aversion to everything horse related). The cover photos for the two books are vaguely similar, so I always avoided picking this book up thinking I’d already read it (and hated it). Then last week, I was at Darrah’s house and she loaned me a few books and at the last minute added Plainsong to the pile. And thank God she did because this might be one of the best books I’ve ever read. I truly loved it. It was really beautifully written and so timeless. And best of all, it wasn’t about horses at all! I mean, there was like one page about a horse, but I will easily forgive Kent Haruf that one page, because the rest of the book is sooo good.

You know how so many movies these days are like 2 or 3 hours long? It’s like a movie can’t be considered legit unless it’s long. It’s gotten so that all movies are longer than they need to be just to seem substantial. Sometimes I think books are headed the same way. I know that I’ve sometimes found myself discrediting skinny books recently. Like the quality of the story is somehow linked to the heft of the book. Plainsong is relatively short, only 301 pages, but I felt like it packed a similar punch as East of Eden, which was twice as long.

Here’s the description from the back of the book:

“Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. From simple elements, Haruf achieves a novel of wisdom and grace…”

The characters are so endearing. I can’t even tell you how much I loved Raymond and Harold. Really, I loved all the characters in this book. So much. I teared up like 5 times, but not because it’s so sad, although parts of it are. I mostly cried because it’s so heartwarming. I can’t believe I just typed heartwarming, but I DID. And I MEANT IT. I think I’m going to immediately start one of his other novels that Darrah also loaned me – Where You Once Belonged.


Anonymous said...

OH this sounds wonderful. thank you.

Heather J. said...

This one has been on my list for a while, but now that you say it has the same impact as East of Eden (FABULOUS BOOK!) I'll definitely have to bump it up to near the top.

Bybee said...

This book was so wonderful...I finally felt like I knew what Raymond Carver would've been like if he'd ever written a novel. I loved the simple, spare language, and favorite characters were Harold and Raymond.