51 – 53. The Plainsong Trilogy (Kent Haruf)


After reading Our Souls at Night, I had been searching for a copy of Plainsong to start the Plainsong trilogy which included Plainsong (book #51), Eventide (#52) and Benediction (#53) which were on my shelf.   This author had a gift of portraying characters at all ages and seemed able to focus on aging while many other books feature younger characters.  Sadly, the author died after finishing Our Souls at Night.  He was described by the Guardian as an author who wrote “understated novels of smalltown life”.

The trilogy began with Plainsong, set in the small town of Holt, Colorado.  The story followed a few characters whose lives collided.  These characters were two old farmers – bachelor’s (Raymond and Harold) who dedicated their lives to looking after their family farm, a teenaged girl (Victoria) who found herself pregnant and alone along with a teacher (Tom) who responsible for his two boys after his wife took to her bed with mental health challenges.  A number of other characters were entwined in the stories of their lives yet the characters rally to help each other.

Eventide was the second book in the series and continued the description of the Harold and Raymond as they learned to live without Victoria who had headed off to college with her daughter.  This left the brothers coping without the ray of sunshine that the girls provided in their home.  The novel introduced new characters yet they all had some link back to Plainsong.

The final story, Benediction, seemed the most separate and had a standalone feeling.  I had been hoping that it would continue the tale of the familiar characters but was a bit disappointed.  While it did mention the previous characters in passing, it focused on a new family from Holt that was dealing with a father (Lewis) dying of cancer.  Lewis had been a well-known business man, running the hardware store, dealing with his own struggles with an estranged son.  His supportive daughter moved home to help her mother to care for him.  Other characters included the neighbour who was caring for her young grand daughter and the town preacher who had a strained relationship with his own son.  As Lewis grew weaker, the story wrapped up, coming full circle.

The series was a light, easy read which followed the lives of some interesting characters.  It was perfect for a “palate-cleansing” read early this summer but if you are looking to read any by this author, I would recommend Our Souls at Night.

“What I’ve seen is the sweet kindness of one person to another.  Just time passing on a summer’s night.  The ordinary life”.  (Benediction, p163).

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