Friday, August 27, 2010

Plainsong by Kent Haruf


by Kent Haruf
published 1999
completed June 2010

Plainsong takes place in the small town of Holt, Colorado, and focuses on the lives of many of its residents.  Victoria Roubideaux is teenager who has just found out she is pregnant.  Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher, raising two young boys alone while their mother is coping with depression.  The McPheron brothers are isolated as they raise cattle on their farm.  Maggie Jones teaches at the same high school as Tom Guthrie, and is instrumental and bringing them all together.

After discovering she is pregnant, Victoria is kicked out of her home.  She confides in Maggie Jones, and Maggie set about to help her by seeking the help of the McPheron brothers. She wanted Victoria to stay with them on their farm until she had the baby.  The McPheron brothers were old and a bit rough, and they were hesitant to take her in, but the transformation that took place with Victoria around was touching.  They came to love her and went to great lengths to protect her.  At one point Victoria had been reckless and was concerned that she had harmed the baby.  The brothers sweetly told her stories of their experience birthing calves to try to put her mind at ease.  It didn't really make sense, but their effort to cheer her was felt.

I really had a difficult time reading about the Guthrie boys.  My heart went out to them because they seemed to be in limbo.  Their mother deserted them, and their father was never really there.  They were only nine and ten years old, but spent most of their time alone.  It broke my heart the difficulties that these boys had to endure.

Small towns are notorious for their lack of privacy.  In Plainsong, you see the good and the bad of small town life.  The ending shows what it can be like when a people in a community band together to help each other.

The themes in this book are adult, and there is some language, but I would highly recommend Plainsong. 


  1. I read this last year and was surprised by it. I too felt sorry for the Guthrie boys ... so sad how they just kind of lost both their parents without either one of them dying.

  2. Jenners--I hadn't realized that you read this book and reviewed it last year. I loved your review. It is slow in developing but I agree that it was worth it in the end. Lots of heartache though in between.