Benediction

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Benediction

by Kent Haruf

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | November 17, 2014 | Hardcover

Benediction is rated 3.625 out of 5 by 8.
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year

From the beloved and best-selling author of Plainsong and Eventide comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado.

When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife, Mary, must work together to make his final days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter, Lorraine, hastens back from Denver to help look after him; her devotion softens the bitter absence of their estranged son, Frank, but this cannot be willed away and remains a palpable presence for all three of them. Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother and contends with the painful memories that Dad''s condition stirs up of her own mother''s death. Meanwhile, the town’s newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and teenaged son, a task that proves all the more challenging when he faces the disdain of his congregation after offering more than they are accustomed to getting on a Sunday morning. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors.

Despite the travails that each of these families faces, together they form bonds strong enough to carry them through the most difficult of times.  Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating, Benediction captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. Here Kent Haruf gives us his most indelible portrait yet of this small town and reveals, with grace and insight, the compassion, the suffering and, above all, the humanity of its inhabitants. 

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 pages, 9.5 × 6.52 × 1 in

Published: November 17, 2014

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307959880

ISBN - 13: 9780307959881

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Benediction Good story. Keeps you turning pages to see what happens next. Characters are believable.
Date published: 2014-06-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A great read albeit its flaws I'll admit, I bought this book simply because it was an Indigo Spotlight pick and because it was called "The Book of the Year". Also, I'm a sucker for stickers on my books... that's why I buy and read Heather's Picks. Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. It had a fascinating storyline with many interesting family conflicts. I always appreciate novels that deal with the hardships of religion and homosexuality... they are interesting themes for our modern day society. Now, I REALLY did not like the fact that Haruf refused to use quotation marks for dialogue. I mean, really? I could still tell when someone was talking... but it was so distracting. I read it during the Christmas holidays thinking it would be a hopeful and mesmerizing novel... but it was actually really depressing. Also, a lot of the secondary characters remained underdeveloped throughout the novel. The overall message and storyline are still deeply intriguing... but I wouldn't call this the best book of 2013.
Date published: 2014-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from ben·e·dic·tion - (noun) the invocation of a blessing I'm always in awe of novels that reverberate across and out of its pages, and go beyond the last words. "Benediction" is one such book that commands attention and deserves respect because of that heavy feeling that sticks to you right from the beginning, and lingers on even when you think you are finished with it. "Benediction" revolves around a handful of characters, each likeable and disagreeable in their own way. As a reader, it feels very much like you've been transported and dropped into the town of Holt to observe an intersection of the varied lives of these characters. You come into the knowledge of one life-altering event for each of them, be it a regrettable action or a love lost, and with just that slice of information, you appear to have known these characters for a time too long to quantify. Kent Haruf treads lightly on the solemn subject matter of the end of life but he never discounts the overwhelming emotions that are part and parcel of the process of death - coming to terms, reflecting on a life lived, and finding redemption, resolution, and tranquility in the final moments. It might seem contradictory how I've used "heavy" and "light" to describe "Benediction," but it's in Haruf's craft of writing that the delicate and tender moments in a difficult time seep through. This is subtlety, filled with elegance and grace. I'm in the mind of poring over Haruf's past works and let myself be swept away by the poignancy of his words and world.
Date published: 2014-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Touching. Just finished reading this warm novel.  I still have a tear in the corner of my eye.  There's a little bit of each of us in here among the many characters.  Easy to read and easy to get involved in this book.  I'm sorry to have it end.   I've never read Mr. Haruf's work before but if his other novels are as good as this he's just got a new fan.
Date published: 2014-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Benediction--a winner on all fronts This end of life book treats the strong points of Dad Lewis' life--and the episodes that he could have done better. Anyone over fifty will grasp the protagonist and his struggle with making things right. Set in a fictional small town of Holt, Colorado, Haruf's outstanding writing pulls the reader along with great characters, a plausible plot, and a true to life ending. I will read it many times during its tenure in my library.
Date published: 2014-01-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from OK I bought this book based on the short description and was very disappointed. I do not think the author ever lived in a small community. Too many characters and never really finished or fully told a story on any of them. Especially on Dad who the I thought the book was based on. I was hoping to give this book to a friend who's father recently passed to help her through but really I do not see how it would be of much help.
Date published: 2014-01-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Benediction I bought this book as an Indigo Spotlight book and based on the reviews I had expected more.  I found story moved slowly and altho some of the characters were well drawn, others needed more of a back story (wasn't clear what motivated them).  I think the author intended to convey personalities in a small community and their connections to each other.  The book also had a spiritual overtone which may not appeal to some. 
Date published: 2013-12-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I've never been so let down by a book I so enjoyed reading Very well written, incredibly engrossing, but such a let down in the end. At the end of the book I found myself asking what the point of reading it was....  If you can enjoy good writing without expecting anything in return, it is a good read. 
Date published: 2013-12-28

– More About This Product –

Benediction

by Kent Haruf

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 pages, 9.5 × 6.52 × 1 in

Published: November 17, 2014

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307959880

ISBN - 13: 9780307959881

About the Book

From the beloved and bestselling author of "Plainsong" and "Eventide" comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado. Haruf gives an indelible portrait a small town and reveals the humanity of its inhabitants.

Read from the Book

Chapter 1   When the test came back the nurse called them into the examination room and when the doctor entered the room he just looked at them and asked them to sit down. They could tell by the look on his face where matters stood.   Go on ahead, Dad Lewis said, say it.   I’m afraid I don’t have very good news for you, the doctor said.   When they went back downstairs to the parking lot it was late in the afternoon.   You drive, Dad said. I don’t want to.   Are you feeling so bad, honey?   No. I don’t feel that much worse. I just want to look out at this country. I won’t be coming out here again.   I don’t mind driving for you, she said. And we can come this way again anytime if you want to.   They drove out from Denver away from the mountains, back onto the high plains: sagebrush and soapweed and blue grama and buffalo grass in the pastures, wheat and corn in the planted fields. On both sides of the highway were the gravel county roads going out away under the pure blue sky, all the roads straight as the lines ruled in a book, with only a few small isolated towns spread across the flat open country.   It was sundown when they got home. By then the air was starting to cool off. She parked the car in front of their house at the west edge of Holt on the gravel street and Dad got out and stood looking for a while. The old white house built in 1904, the first on the street which wasn’t ev
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From the Publisher

A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year

From the beloved and best-selling author of Plainsong and Eventide comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado.

When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife, Mary, must work together to make his final days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter, Lorraine, hastens back from Denver to help look after him; her devotion softens the bitter absence of their estranged son, Frank, but this cannot be willed away and remains a palpable presence for all three of them. Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother and contends with the painful memories that Dad''s condition stirs up of her own mother''s death. Meanwhile, the town’s newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and teenaged son, a task that proves all the more challenging when he faces the disdain of his congregation after offering more than they are accustomed to getting on a Sunday morning. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors.

Despite the travails that each of these families faces, together they form bonds strong enough to carry them through the most difficult of times.  Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating, Benediction captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. Here Kent Haruf gives us his most indelible portrait yet of this small town and reveals, with grace and insight, the compassion, the suffering and, above all, the humanity of its inhabitants. 

About the Author

Kent Haruf’s honors include a Whiting Foundation Writers’ Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award, the Wallace Stegner Award, and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation; he has also been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New Yorker Book Award.   He lives with his wife, Cathy, in their native Colorado.

Editorial Reviews

“His finest-tuned tale yet. . . . There is a deep, satisfying music to this book, as Haruf weaves between such a large cast of characters in so small a space. . . . Strangely, wonderfully, the moment of a man''s passing can be a blessing in the way it brings people together.  Benediction recreates this powerful moment so gracefully it is easy to forget that, like [the town of] Holt, it is a world created by one man.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe "A quiet and profound statement about endings, about change and death and endurance, and about the courage it takes to finally let go. . . . What''s remarkable is Haruf''s ability, once again, to square quotidian events with what it means to be alive and bound in ordinary pleasure with ordinary people [with] a matter-of-fact tone, with spare declarative sentences and plain-speak among the characters that is, in its bare-bones clarity, often heartbreakingly authentic."  —Debra Gwartney, The Oregonian “What Haruf makes of this patch of ground is magic [and] Benediction spreads its blessing over the entire town.  Haruf isn’t interested in evil so much as the frailties that defeat us – loneliness, a failure to connect with one another, the lack of courage to change. . . . [He] makes us admire his characters’ ability not only to carry on but also to enjoy simple pleasures.” —Dan Cryer, San Francisco Chronicle “We’ve waited a long time f
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Bookclub Guide

US

1. Two of Haruf’s previous novels set in Holt, Plainsong and Eventide, followed the same groups of characters, but Benediction mentions them only in passing. Have you read those two novels? Do you think reading them would increase your enjoyment of Benediction?

2. The book’s epigraph is a definition of the word “benediction”: “the utterance of a blessing, an invocation of blessedness.” Why is it an appropriate title for this novel?

3. Discuss the character called Dad. Why do you think Haruf gave him that name? What does it signify?

4. What do we learn about Dad from the episode with Clayton? Why does Dad hallucinate a visit from Clayton’s wife?

5. There are many parental relationships in the novel: Dad and Mary and Lorraine, Willa and Alene, Lyle and John Wesley, for example. What makes some stronger than others? 

6. Alice has many substitute mothers. Why do so many of the women want to take care of her? Who does she seem to respond to best?

7. One parental relationship in particular haunts the story: Dad and Frank. How does Dad feel about Frank at the end?

8. On page 43, Lyle counsels a couple who want to get married: “Love is the most important part of life, isn’t it. If you have love you can live in this world in a true way and if you love each other you can see past everything and accept what you don’t understand and forgive what you don’t know or don’t like.” How does this relate to his own life?

9. Why is Lyle’s sermon so inflammatory? What point is Haruf making about religion?

10. When Lyle goes out walking at night, he says he’s in search of “the precious ordinary.” (Page 162) What does he mean by that?

11. After Mary goes to Denver in search of Frank, she’s treated kindly by several strangers. What does this tell us about Mary, or about city life?

12. Lorraine has lost a child and is in an unfulfilling relationship. Do you think she’ll be happy to move back to Holt and take over Dad’s store? How do you imagine that will go?

13. Change is a theme that runs through the novel—fast change, slow change, changes in small-town living, changes in religion, changes in characters’ relationships. What larger point is Haruf making?

14. Why does John Wesley attempt suicide? Why doesn’t he go through with it?

15. What does Dad learn from the “visits” by his parents and Frank? Does Dad have regrets about his life?

16. Reread the closing paragraphs of the book. Why does Haruf end the novel this way?

17. Haruf’s language and punctuation are so plain, the writing is nearly austere. How does its simplicity contribute to the mood of the story?

18. In an interview in Publishers Weekly about Benediction, Haruf said: “In some ways, what happens in Holt happens in Denver, in Minneapolis, everywhere. Death is a fact of life, no matter where you live. Taking care of the dying is a necessity everywhere. Those are not conditions exclusive to small towns.” Did he succeed in making his story feel universal?

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