I've always been utterly captivated by Kent Haruf's storytelling ability. In novels like Plainsong and Eventide, the simplicity of his writing was used to such terrific advantage. The characters he creates are everyday people with everyday challenges (for the most part), and in a world where all too often more is more, his stories don't dwell on unnecessary drama yet touch your heart and make you think.
The same holds true for Haruf's newest novel, Benediction. In the small town of Holt, Colorado, longtime resident and hardware store owner Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he and his wife, Mary, begin planning for the end of his life and endeavor to make his final days as comfortable and stress-free as possible. While their grown daughter, Lorraine, comes home to help care for her father, her presence doesn't quite assuage the sadness and uncertainty Dad and Mary feel about their estranged son, Frank, who left Holt after he graduated high school and never...
But unfortunately, I did come away from benediction slightly disappointed. It was poignant and moving and I did find myself on a plane wiping tears from my eyes at 35,000 feet due to the similarity of my own father's passing. However, stylistically I was less than impressed with Haruf's latest novel. I'm not a big fan of the lack of quotation marks; but such is a relatively minor critique. Benediction was purposefully written in a very simple style; even more-so than usual. Haruf went to great lengths to mimic the diction and brevity indigenous to a tiny town in that particular region of the country. However, the writing lacked a certain appeal which normally characterizes Haruf's writing. He is normally a minimalist - the polar opposite of a John Irving or Tome Wolfe - but Haruf's brevity is executed beautifully in prior novels where it seems to have gone a step too far in Benediction. Because Haruf is one of my favorite authors, I still enjoyed the melancholic stroll down...
Read anything and everything by Kent Haruf. He has a beautiful and spare style of writing that is evocative of the landscapes in his books. This was one of those series that I savored and was so sad when it ended. I missed the folks I had made friends with throughout the three books. I felt like I knew people; neither their struggles nor joys were described to death, but the reader was left with enough space to fill in the blanks; to feel like a participant in the story. Each of the books was wonderful in its own way- and although this final book was excellent, it was the first book that hooked me and whose story I remember most. All of the stories are compelling, the characters (and their flaws) are shaded by an author who loves them all and who has compassion for their circumstances and the choices they have made. Go for it!! You will not be sorry.
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