Monday, 5 September 2016

Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff)
    Kent's father was a Methodist minister. Kent attended Wesleyan University in Nebraska and later was involved with the writers' workshop there.  He taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps.  He also taught college in Nebraska and Illinois.
  Kent has written 6 novels. I blogged about his last novel in 2015, "Our Souls at Night".
   This week I decided to tackle a trilogy: "Plainsong", "Eventide" and "Benediction".  Kent's books take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, and he really describes the landscape well.

 In this novel there is an interesting assortment of characters- a high school teacher with two sons, a pregnant, homeless girl, two older bachelor farmers.  It really could be a slice of life in any small town.
 I could not figure out the reason for the title. I read this: "The title comes from a type of music sung in Christian churches, and is a reference to both the Great Plains setting and the simple style of writing".  This novel was made into a T.V. movie.

  In this second novel, some characters continue.  The McPheron men, who had provided a home for the pregnant teen, are lonely when she leaves for college and takes her baby.
  There is some sadness and also some romantic involvements in this book.
  A welfare family was added to the story and I hated that storyline.  It was full of abuse and bad language.  There was no redeeming feature in that.  Two other storylines were added that contained abuse and violence.  

   I'm not sure why these three books are called a series because none of the characters are continued in this book.  The town is the same.
  It is about an elderly man's last few weeks as he died of lung cancer. He had a loving wife and attentive daughter but his son had not been heard from for many, many years.  No resolution to that.
   I thought it was going to be without the abuse of the last book, but a fight breaks out in the church when the minister speaks about the Sermon on the Mount.  The whole scene was so bizarre to me.

   What I was missing from these books: character development, insight and understanding.  It really was just a town of people going about their everyday activities and it was often not clear why they were doing the things they were doing.

   Many people love Kent Haruf's writing.  I found this series plodding, with too many abusive characters.  The author wrote a lot of fight scenes in detail. 
   I cannot get over the lack of quotation marks.  There is not even a new paragraph when someone is speaking.  It seems so strange to me that an English teacher would ignore the rules of writing.
   The first book had a title at the beginning of each chapter to indicate who the chapter was about. But in the second book, you often didn't know who the chapter was about until you got a few paragraphs in.
   I thought the writing was very poor in this series.
   But I did enjoy Kent's very last book "Our Souls at Night".  He wrote it just before he died and it is sensitive and lovely.  You can read my review here.
  I am not finished with Kent Haruf's writing.  Our library book club is planning to read "The Tie Than Binds" in October.

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