Plainsong

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Plainsong

by Kent Haruf

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | October 15, 1999 | Hardcover

Plainsong is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 2.
A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.
In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl -- her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house -- is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they''ve ever known.

From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together -- their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.

Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong is a novel to care about, believe in, and learn from.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 320 pages, 9.55 × 6.48 × 1.14 in

Published: October 15, 1999

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375406182

ISBN - 13: 9780375406188

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from WorthWhile This book called Plainsong, is an excellent book. It looks at the many difficult situations people go through in life. Victoria, one of the characters in this book is a young girl who gets pregnant. It shows all the things she has to go through, like losing her mother. It shows how a single father has to raise two young boys, because their mother goes crazy. These are real life situations, and you may even learn something from it. I know I did. These life stories can help you through your own problems. Two old men in this book learn how to accept and live with new things. It is an excellent book, and something you could really learn from. Enjoy!
Date published: 2001-05-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Concept To Think About Plainsong is the story of three groups of people - a pregnant girl, a father of two, and two old bachleors. These three groups will become intertwined in very realistic and ordinary ways. Plainsong presents a look at everyday people dealing with their life issues. Haruf paints a picture for the reader of the need for family and challenges the reader to think about what constitutes a family. The message that I gained from reading Plainsong was that of family by choice. Once you have love, caring and commitment within a group of people you have the seeds of a family. Plainsong was an interesting novel to read. Often as readers we expect the deep and dark rather than the ordinary. This is a new concept to behold. I have spent alot of time reflecting on Plainsong and the strongest message is of the necessity family in any form. I would recommend this book.
Date published: 2001-03-06

– More About This Product –

Plainsong

by Kent Haruf

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 320 pages, 9.55 × 6.48 × 1.14 in

Published: October 15, 1999

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375406182

ISBN - 13: 9780375406188

Read from the Book

Here was this man Tom Guthrie in Holt standing at the back window in the kitchen of his house smoking cigarettes and looking out over the back lot where the sun was just coming up. When the sun reached the top of the windmill, for a while he watched what it was doing, that increased reddening of sunrise along the steel blades and the tail vane above the wooden platform. After a time he put out the cigarette and went upstairs and walked past the closed door behind which she lay in bed in the darkened guest room sleeping or not and went down the hall to the glassy room over the kitchen where the two boys were. The room was an old sleeping porch with uncurtained windows on three sides, airy-looking and open, with a pinewood floor. Across the way they were still asleep, together in the same bed under the north windows, cuddled up, although it was still early fall and not yet cold. They had been sleeping in the same bed for the past month and now the older boy had one hand stretched above his brother''s head as if he hoped to shove something away and thereby save them both. They were nine and ten, with dark brown hair and unmarked faces, and cheeks that were still as pure and dear as a girl''s. Outside the house the wind came up suddenly out of the west and the tail vane turned with it and the blades of the windmill spun in a red whir, then the wind died down and the blades slowed and stopped. You boys better come on, Guthrie said. He watched their faces, standing at the foot of t
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From the Publisher

A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.
In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl -- her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house -- is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they''ve ever known.

From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together -- their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.

Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong is a novel to care about, believe in, and learn from.

From the Jacket

A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.
In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl -- her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house -- is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they''ve ever known.
From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together -- their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.
Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong is a novel to care about, believe in, and learn from.

About the Author

Kent Haruf''s The Tie That Binds received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation. Also the author of Where You Once Belonged, he lives with his wife, Cathy, in Murphysboro, Illinois, and teaches at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

From Our Editors

A touching, elegant novel which discusses the meaning of life from the perspective of three different generations of people all living in the same town. First, there's the high school teacher forced to raise his two boys alone after their mother leaves. We also meet a pregnant teenage girl banned from her own house. Finally, there are the two elderly bachelors farming on the outskirts of town. Plainsong shows how their experiences bind them together to a place where their circumstances don't hold them down.

Editorial Reviews

advance praise for Plainsong "Kent Haruf''s new novel Plainsong is nothing short of a revelation. I don''t expect to read a better novel this year. Or next, for that matter."                                                              --Richard Russo "I read Plainsong in one sitting, unwilling--unable--to look up until I''d finished. Kent Haruf has given us a pure blessing of a book: a novel of such sheer sweet amplitude, grace and humanity."                                                                --Beverly Lowry " Plainsong is the marvelous story of how seven extraordinary members of a tiny prairie community--two dedicated teachers, two young boys wise beyond their years, a pair of wonderfully idiosyncratic rancher brothers and a pregnant high school girl--come together, in the face of great difficulties, to form the most appealing extended fam
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Bookclub Guide

Kent Haruf''s The Tie That Binds received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation. Also the author of Where You Once Belonged, he lives with his wife, Cathy, in Murphysboro, Illinois, and teaches at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

1. Why might Kent Haruf have chosen Plainsong as the title for this novel? What meaning, or meanings, does the title have in relation to Haruf''s story and people?                                

2. How does Haruf characterize the landscape of Holt and its surroundings, and how does he use landscape to set the emotional scene? In what ways are his characters shaped and formed by the land around them?

        

3. Few hints are given in the novel about what life might have been like for the Guthrie family before Ella retreated. What do you imagine this family life to have been like? What sort of a marriage did Tom and Ella have, and what made it go wrong? What might account for Ella''s nearly total withdrawal even from the children she seems to love?

        

4. What is it about Victoria''s life that has made her choose Dwayne -- an outsider to the community, in fact an unknown -- to fall for? What lack or emptiness in her own life is she trying to fill with this romance? How does her relationship with him echo her parents'' relationship?

        

5. How does their view of the three teenagers having sex in the abandoned house inform and affect Ike and Bobby? What does this sight tell them about sex? About love? About the relations and power struggle between men and women?

        

6. Do you see marked differences between Raymond and Harold McPheron? If so, what are they?

        

7. Why do you think the McPheron brothers have chosen to spend their lives together rather than to start families of their own? Are they lonely or unhappy before Victoria''s arrival, or do they feel sufficient in themselves? What does Maggie mean when she tells them, "This is your chance" (110)?

8. What parallels can you draw between the McPheron brothers and the young Guthrie boys? Why is the relationship so close in each case? What sort of a future do you see for the Guthrie boys? Do you think they will marry and have families?

9. The McPheron brothers think they know nothing about young girls; is that true? Has their solitary life, close to the earth, handicapped them so far as human relations go, or has it, in fact, provided them with hidden advantages?

10. What examples of parents abandoning children -- either by desertion, emotional withdrawal or death -- can be found in this novel? What do all these incidents have in common? How does abandonment affect children, and how does it shape their later life and relationships?

        

11. It is usually women who are portrayed as nurturers, but in this novel men -- Tom Guthrie and the McPheron brothers -- provide shelter and comfort. How do men differ from women in this respect? What do these men offer that a woman might not be able to?

        

12. "These are crazy times," Maggie Jones says. "I sometimes believe these must be the craziest times ever" (124). What does she mean by this? In what way are our times "crazier" than earlier eras? How does such "craziness" affect the lives of young people such as Victoria, Ike and Bobby?

13. What motives and feelings might have driven Tom to sleep with Judy when it was really Maggie he was interested in? Why might Maggie seem momentarily frightening or intimidating to him?

        

14. Why do the Guthrie boys befriend Iva Stearns? What are they looking for in this tentative friendship? Do they find what they are seeking?

        

15. Why do the Guthrie boys go to the McPheron brothers after Iva''s death, rather than to someone closer to home, like their father or Maggie? Is there any indication that they connect Iva''s death with their mother''s defection? Why do they place their mother''s bracelet on the train tracks, then bury it?

        

16. The inhabitants of Holt and its surroundings are extremely laconic: they speak only sparingly, as though they mistrust words. What might cause this silence? In what way does it affect the characters'' relationships with one another?

17. How would you describe Holt, Colorado? What are its limitations, its disadvantages, and what are its strengths? In what ways is it typical of any American small town, and in what ways is it different? What help does it provide people who need healing, like the characters in this book?                        

18. Plainsong depicts some unusual "family" groups. How might Kent Haruf define family?

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