Benediction

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Benediction

by Kent Haruf

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | February 26, 2013 | Hardcover |

3.625 out of 5 rating. 8 Reviews
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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, 6.3 × 9.45 × 0.79 in

Published: February 26, 2013

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307959880

ISBN - 13: 9780307959881

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– More About This Product –

Benediction

Benediction

by Kent Haruf

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 0.79 in

Published: February 26, 2013

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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