Friday, October 31, 2014

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf (author), Tom Stechschulte (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780694522880, November 1999

Plainsong weaves together the stories of Victoria Roubideaux, seventeen years old, pregnant, and thrown out of the house by her mother; the McPheron brothers, Harold and Raymond, elderly bachelor ranchers; high school teacher Tom Guthrie and his two sons, Ike and Bobby; and Maggie Jones, another high school teacher.

Set in the small town of Holt, Colorado, sometime in the 1980s or 90s, this is a meditation on community, decency, and pulling together. Victoria, pregnant and now homeless, turns to her teacher, Mrs. Jones, for help. Maggie takes her in, and when it becomes clear that her father's advancing dementia makes the house unsafe for Victoria, she convinces the elderly, and lonely, McPheron brothers to give her a home.

Meanwhile, Tom Guthrie and his two sons, nine and ten years old, are struggling to adjust to first the emotional withdrawal of wife and mother, and then her actual withdrawal from their lives. The two sets of brothers, the Guthries and the McPherons, find their own connection, as the boys reach for growing maturity and independence, and the men learn both to support Victoria and depend on her. And Victoria learns that she's not just a burden and an inconvenience, but has her own strength and value, too.

This is a beautiful story, told in deceptively simple language and style. Holt is not utopia, and there are wrong people here as well as the good ones, and real challenges and problems to be overcome. In the end, though, this is a story that's deeply positive about people.


I bought this book.

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