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Book 4 of 2014 – Plainsong – Kent Haruf

PlainsongAt the beginning of his novel Plainsong author Kent Haruf provides a definition of Plainsong

the unisonous vocal music used in Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air

And that is just what Haruf’s 2000 novel Plainsong (and Book 4 of 2014) is the simple unadorned story song of a period of time in the lives of seven main characters living in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. These characters are: the Guthrie’s, schoolteacher Tom Guthrie and his two boys, Ike Bobby who are nine and ten years old respectively, the pregnant seventeen year-old Victoria Roubideaux,Raymond and Harold McPheron, and Maggie Jones.

The story chronicles a time in their lives from the fall in the year the Victoria discovers that she is pregnant to the spring when the baby is due. During those months these characters and their lives intertwine in ways as they face problems and situations like one would find in any small town in America. Tom and his boys are dealing with a wife and mother who is so despondent that she spends her days in her room and eventually leaves their family. Victoria, after she discovers that she is pregnant is thrown out of her house by her mother. The McPherons are two elderly farmers who have spent their entire lives, alone together on their farm 17 miles away from town. Maggie Jones is a school teacher at the same school as Tom, is dealing with a father slowly sinking into dementia. Victoria after being thrown out by her mother turns to Maggie, Maggie takes her in,but things don’t work out because of her father she turns to the McPherons, who in turn take Victoria in. One of the treats of the book for me was the development of the relationship between the McPherons and Victoria,from the early days when they explained futures and pork bellies to her, to the buying of her crib and to their worry when she leaves.

Once again this is a book that I am reading as part of my attempts to read more deeply and get more out of a book than just a good story. As such I’ve read several of the available book club study questions, which I again struggled with, however, I did look at some study guides which spoke about the themes of the book. Two of them stood out to me one was the loss of innocence, which certainly applied to Ike and Bobby, Victoria and also the McPhesons, who were innocents when it came to having a woman around particularly one who was seventeen and pregnant! The other was family which I think is certainly a strong theme in the book! At Barnes and Noble’s website I found this quote in a piece about Kent Haruf!

In a 2000 interview about Plainsong. “What I want to suggest at the end [of the book] is that at this point, at least this day and this point in their lives, all these people have found a place in a small community — it may even be an extended family — in which they can connect with other people and find solace and communion.”

So I have to wrap this up now and get to work at Target. If you’ve read the book and would like to add a comment, please do, and if not give it a read while I move on to Eventide!