Book Reviews of Plainsong

Plainsong
Plainsong
Author: Kent Haruf
ISBN-13: 9780965462136
ISBN-10: 0965462137
Publication Date: 10/1999
Pages: 301
Edition: Unabridged
Rating:
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 14

3.8 stars, based on 14 ratings
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

82 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Plainsong on + 121 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
Story Overview

The setting is the small town of Holtâlocated in the prairie not too far from Denver. The type of town where people know each other's business and papers are still delivered by boys on bicycles. Yet as much as people know you in a small town, they don't really know you or what goes on behind closed doors or closed mouths. In this small community, we get inside the minds and lives of several Holt residentsâall of whom are suffering from some form of loneliness, sadness or isolation.

* Tom Guthrieâa teacher at the local high school whose wife has become distant and unreachable

* Ike and BobbyâGuthrie's two sons, who are confused by their mother's distance and looking for a way to recapture her love and attention

* Victoria Roubideauxâa high school girl who finds herself pregnant and cast out of her home by her mother

* The McPheron Brothersâtwo older bachelor brothers who live on a farm outside of Holt and keep mostly to themselves.

* Maggie Jonesâa single woman who teaches with Guthrie and cares for her elderly father and serves as the glue that begins to bind these individuals together.

Each of these characters alone has a voice that is aching to be heard and understood. And as they move ever closer together to form a type of family of their own, their voices and lives begin to intertwine and harmonize together in a way that is true, touching and beautiful.

My Thoughts

At the start of the book, Kent Haruf provides the definition of plainsong:

The unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air (e.g., Gregorian chant is type of plainsong).

I didn't fully appreciate the meaning of the title until the end of the book. But upon finishing the book, the title just made so much sense and was so fitting. In the book, each of the character's individual lives comes together to become part of a bigger wholeâwith each voice complementing and harmonizing with the other voices. At its heart, this book is about seeing a new community being formed from lives that were previously lived separately and parallel.

The book is both simple and subtle. It doesn't hit you over the head with things. Rather, it lets you experience the lives of the characters through simple narration and dialogue. Even the dialogue is unadorned with quotation marks (and sometimes attribution). I could see that some readers might find this book a bit slow-paced or even frustrating. But if you stick with it until the end, you'll appreciate the author's skill in giving you much more that you thought you were getting at first glance.

Frankly, I was surprised at how satisfied I was by the end of the book. I struggled to get into the story for a little bit and found the shifting viewpoints a bit off-putting at first. It was almost like drifting from character to character like a ghostâgetting a little bit here, leaving for awhile, and then coming back and getting a little more. Once you adapt to the rhythm of the book, though, it turns into a rich and rewarding read.

My Final Recommendation

I don't think this book is for everybody. If you're the type of reader who likes big, loud, obvious books (i.e., ones that read like a summer blockbuster movie like Transformers), I don't think you would care for Plainsong. However, if you're the type of reader who has patience and an appreciation for slower-building, more subtle books (i.e., ones that read like an art house film), then this book would be perfect for you. Think of Plainsong as a cup of teaâit takes time to steep and brew and you drink it slowly but, at the end, you're filled with warmth and satisfaction.

And for those of you who care about such things, Plainsong was a finalist for the National Book Award.
reviewed Plainsong on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
This was a delightful read. Keeping true to its title,"Plainsong", it is written in
a plain manner - no extra frills, no extra verbage, no convoluted plots. Just a good
story with wonderfully developed characters. Days after finishing the book you think
about the characters and wonder how they are doing. It's just a plain good story
and worth your time.
reviewed Plainsong on + 162 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
While the writing is as gorgeous and lush as it's supposed to be, I found the subject matter to be so unremarkable and familiar that it was actually overdone and, thus, boring.

However, I'm probably the minority, given the glowing reviews this book has won elsewhere. If you like literary fiction (the award-winning type), you'll probably love this book.
reviewed Plainsong on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
What a fine book this is. Such a great story that evokes a time and a place so perfectly and entwines several stories seamlessly. Touching and heartwarming without being the least bit schmaltzy.
reviewed Plainsong on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Well written, but discriptive about the setting instead of the people.
reviewed Plainsong on + 72 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
"Plainsong" is possibly the most touching and one of the most memorable novels I have ever read. This is an absolutely lovely story that reassures one of the underlying good in human nature. This one stays with you long after finishing the last page.
reviewed Plainsong on + 468 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Beautifully written and narrated by Tom Stechschulte, Plainsong is a lovely, character driven novel about small town life and family. It starts slowly but once you get past the first third of the book, the story will capture your heart. I intend to look into Haruf's backlist. Highly recommend.
reviewed Plainsong on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A story of several 'down home' type people including a pregnant teen, and two rough but very likable bachelor farmers, two abandoned boys and more. Ralistic and sometimes sad, ends on an optimistic note.
reviewed Plainsong on
Helpful Score: 1
This is a re-read for me, and I think I'm going to hang on to it for a re-read later too! Too bad we don't hear more about these type of stories in real life!!
A very diverse and small group of people help a pregnant girl with no hope gain some, and come together as an extended family with actual and emotional support. LOVE the brothers!!
reviewed Plainsong on + 3 more book reviews
Haruf's writing style is spare but compelling. One of the few books this new year that kept me up all night. I'm still thinking about the characters. You're going to love Raymond and Harold; "Well, my my. My lord almighty." "I believe we have just doubled our womenfolk."
reviewed Plainsong on + 14 more book reviews
I really enjoyed Kent Haruf's writing style: plain unadorned, nevertheless deeply moving and poetic. The story, set in a small American town, resonates with the desire for belonging to a family.
reviewed Plainsong on + 18 more book reviews
Book is somewhat slow moving, but that could be a positive or negative depending on the reader's mood. Covers life in a small town from both child and adult perspectives. I felt like a couple of important clashes between various characters/families weren't adequately brought to fruition, but I enjoyed the book and would probably recommend it. Incidentally, I was reading Kingsolver's _Animal Dreams_ at the same time I was reading this one. The mood is very similar, and I don't think either one is better or worse than the other.
reviewed Plainsong on + 12 more book reviews
I loved this book. It was written in an interesting way and I thought the story was good.
reviewed Plainsong on + 112 more book reviews
National Book Award Finalist.
reviewed Plainsong on + 3 more book reviews
Beautiful story about well-developed characters. It's not a story about events, but more of a portrait of very real characters who are just trying to do their best and live their lives. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading the sequel.
reviewed Plainsong on + 711 more book reviews
Plainsong, according to Kent Haruf's epigraph, is "any simple and unadorned melody or air." It's a perfect description of this lovely, rough-edged book, set on the very edge of the Colorado plains. Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher whose wife can't--or won't--get out of bed; the McPherons are two bachelor brothers who know little about the world beyond their farm gate; Victoria Roubideaux is a pregnant 17-year-old with no place to turn. Their lives parallel each other in much the same way any small-town lives would--until Maggie Jones, another teacher, makes them intersect. Even as she tries to draw Guthrie out of his black cloud, she sends Victoria to live with the two elderly McPheron brothers, who know far more about cattle than about teenage girls. Trying to console her when she think she's hurt her baby, the best lie they can come up with is this: "I knew of a heifer we had one time that was carrying a calf, and she got a length of fencewire down her some way and it never hurt her or the calf."
Holt, Colorado, is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone's business before that business even happens. In a way, that's true of the book, too. There's not a lot of suspense here, plotwise; you can see each narrative twist and turn coming several miles down the pike. What Plainsong has instead is note-perfect dialogue, surrounded by prose that's straightforward yet rich in particulars: "a woman walking a white lapdog on a piece of ribbon," glimpsed from a car window; the boys' mother, her face "as pale as schoolhouse chalk"; the smells of hay and manure, the variations of prairie light. Even the novel's larger questions are sized to a domestic scale. Will Guthrie find love? Will Victoria run away with the father of her baby? Will the McPherons learn to hold a conversation? But in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and Plainsong manages to capture nothing less than an entire world--fencing pliers, calf-pullers, and all. Kent Haruf has a gorgeous ear, and a knack for rendering the simple complex.
reviewed Plainsong on + 81 more book reviews
Such a wonderful little story of small town stuggle & triumph. Wait until you meet the McPheron brothers. I absolutely adored them, they cracked me up.
A nice book to read on a Sunday afternoon.
reviewed Plainsong on + 69 more book reviews
Fabulous book -- not normally my style and I adored it. Book 1 in the series.
reviewed Plainsong on + 19 more book reviews
Really kind of an odd story, yet captivating nonetheless. I loved it.
reviewed Plainsong on + 1099 more book reviews
I believe I can understand the appeal this book has had for so many critics and readers. Its simplicity and straightforward storytelling have a certain kind of subtle charm, and the characters' lives weave together to form a very American tapestry. It's filled with small details and basic truths that nearly everyone can relate to.

Warm and charming and down-to-earth as it is, however, it is not a book I would read again. After a while, maybe a third of the way through, the almost forced simplicity of prose and plot made me restless, and I longed for the story to move a little faster, to get wherever it was going. Perhaps that's what the sequels do, but I finished Plainsong without sufficient interest in the story to seek them out.
reviewed Plainsong on + 18 more book reviews
lyrical and lovely
reviewed Plainsong on + 22 more book reviews
Good read. Heartland of America. Good character development.
reviewed Plainsong on + 11 more book reviews
Lovely, subtle, beautiful prose.
reviewed Plainsong on + 44 more book reviews
Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. A compelling and compassionate novel
reviewed Plainsong on + 366 more book reviews
One of those hard to put down books where the author creates characters and situations in a small town setting into a compelling story
reviewed Plainsong on + 41 more book reviews
Very good story, well respected by many. Pregnant unmarried teen finds her way to a new life.
reviewed Plainsong on + 40 more book reviews
This book followed the Hallmark movie very closely so I felt like I was actually watching the movie again. In a way I think it almost spoiled it for me since I knew how it would end up in the end.
reviewed Plainsong on + 31 more book reviews
The title of the book prepares your heart and this writer will not leave you untouched as you are lyrically taken thru his characters lives.
reviewed Plainsong on + 12 more book reviews
A mixed lot of characters, some good & some bad. The main characters lives aren't all warm and fuzzy, they hit some bumps in the road, use some poor judgment but eventually the good guys find eachother.
reviewed Plainsong on + 144 more book reviews
This was a meaningful book that was wonderful. I would say, one more page and read 50. It was a lovely novel that I won't forget.
reviewed Plainsong on + 2485 more book reviews
Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. From simple elements, Haruf achieves a novel of wisdom and grace--a narrative that builds in strength and feeling until, as in a choral chant, the voices in the book surround, transport, and lift the reader off the ground."
reviewed Plainsong on + 29 more book reviews
REALLY ENJOYED THE WAY THE BOOK IS STRUCTURED, AS WELL AS THE PLAIN-SPEAKING, YET COMPLEX CHARACTERS.
reviewed Plainsong on + 20 more book reviews
Excellent read. Predictable, but entertaining.
reviewed Plainsong on + 7 more book reviews
Absolutely stunning novel set in Eastern Colorado--equally appealing to those who love "literature" and those who love "westerns."
reviewed Plainsong on + 26 more book reviews
Lovely story of ordinary people facing change and finding unlikely connections -- lyrical prose -- I stopped often to savor a paragraph several times.
reviewed Plainsong on + 9 more book reviews
Haruf's writing reminded me of other favorite authors : Stephen King and Lawrence Block.Each chapter was about a different character or household. They all live in the same town and their stories overlapped. It was fun to piece together information about the other characters from their differing perspectives.
reviewed Plainsong on
I LOVED this book. It was a page turner. I just had to know what was going to happen to each of the characters. It is a book you will think about long after you have finished reading it.
reviewed Plainsong on + 31 more book reviews
This author's strength lies in developing his characters and making us actually care what happens to them. And he accomplishes this feat with spare prose as he describes scenes and conversations from the Every Day of the every day world. A rare talent! When the pregnant high school girl was locked out of her house by her mother, I felt it viscerally. I could sense how cold and dark it was on that porch. And I've never been a pregnant high school girl, or been deliberately locked out by anyone!
reviewed Plainsong on
I would echo the NYTs book review: delicate, lovely - very real. Was not sure I could get into the simplicity of the prose, sparseness of spoken words, so much feeling left unspoken by the characters...yet this is a beautifully written book full of emotional depth. Highly recommend.
reviewed Plainsong on
i thought this book was fabulously well written and gripping. great characters.
reviewed Plainsong on + 293 more book reviews
I thought this book was wonderful in its simple prose. None the less, the characters and community are well developed. About healing wounds, and adapting to changes in s small town. I will definitely be reading more of his books.
reviewed Plainsong on
Great story. Would like to read the follow-up
reviewed Plainsong on + 16 more book reviews
Good colloquial writing. Conversations use no quotations throughout the book.
reviewed Plainsong on + 70 more book reviews
really enjoyed this book. beautifully written story about the intertwined lives in a small town.
reviewed Plainsong on + 20 more book reviews
Great characters, well-written.
reviewed Plainsong on + 47 more book reviews
Very well-written book about a three people who come together to form a family; two bachelor brothers and a pregnant teen.
reviewed Plainsong on + 300 more book reviews
An interwoven story of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother and a couple of crusty old bachelor farmers.

Even after displaying the shortcomings of them, the author causes you to emphasize and grow to care about all the characters named.

Good one!
reviewed Plainsong on + 112 more book reviews
I loved this book.Great story about small town living and how people come together to help one another. I think the 2 old farmers were my favorite characters,it was very sweet how they became so attached to the pregnant teen and her baby.
reviewed Plainsong on + 18 more book reviews
Excellent writing! A story of everyday life and the ability to overcome trials. A "don't want it to be over" book.
reviewed Plainsong on + 468 more book reviews
With his sheer assurance as a storytell,er, the author has conjured up an entire community, and ineluctably mmersed the reader in its dramas.
--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
reviewed Plainsong on + 48 more book reviews
This was a very good read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
reviewed Plainsong on + 45 more book reviews
This is such a heart-warming and wonderful book. Spare prose but well-developed characters. A favorite.
reviewed Plainsong on + 59 more book reviews
Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boyd abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers.
reviewed Plainsong on + 75 more book reviews
This is a good read. The characters are real and it's hard not to like them all.
reviewed Plainsong on + 16 more book reviews
Fantastic book. Well-written, touching story. Kind but not cheezy. Realism, but not overly dark.
reviewed Plainsong on + 92 more book reviews
Definately a wonderful read, loved how the prose just get moving on and I completely fell for the Old McPheron brothers. Looking forward to picking up the sequel EVENTIDE and reading more about these people.
reviewed Plainsong on + 949 more book reviews
Fine, beautifully simple tale that intertwines the destinies of a pregnant high school girl, a pair of bachelor farmers, and a high school teacher struggling with the collapse of his marriage and the task of raising two boys on his own.
reviewed Plainsong on
Very enjoyable.
reviewed Plainsong on + 2 more book reviews
This is one of my favorite books to listen to. Much of the credit goes to the reader, Tom Stechshulte. Tom Stechshulte is the best reader of audiobooks on the planet. He could read an autobiography of Rush Limbaugh or Ted Cruz and I would listen, and I am a Democrat!
reviewed Plainsong on + 26 more book reviews
An award winning book, well deserving of all its awards.
reviewed Plainsong on + 140 more book reviews
A very good book!
reviewed Plainsong on + 6 more book reviews
Charming - much like a Richard Russo book (think "Nobody's Fool") but without the edge. I'm really surprised someone hasn't made a movie of it.
reviewed Plainsong on + 2 more book reviews
Loved it it for its beautiful simplicity.
reviewed Plainsong on + 6 more book reviews
It has been awhile since I read it, but I enjoyed the book enough to buy others by the same author.
reviewed Plainsong on + 17 more book reviews
Loved this story line and author's writing. Must read Eventide, as well.
reviewed Plainsong on + 6 more book reviews
Great premise for a story, though somewhat unbelievable. Uplifting while realistically gritty.
reviewed Plainsong on + 119 more book reviews
Wonderfully involving and very touching without being maudlin. A great read ... I recently received the sequel from another swapper. Looking forward to it!
reviewed Plainsong on + 56 more book reviews
In my opinion, this is an adult book with adult content. I have seen many young teens reading this book. There was some strong language and some sex scenes. The story line seemed a bit patchy to me as well.
reviewed Plainsong on + 7 more book reviews
A really compelling read. A New York Times Notable Book and A New Yorker Book Award Finalist. I read it for my Book Group and it was a great discussion book.
reviewed Plainsong on + 200 more book reviews
I didn't expect there to be graphic detail about sex before even the first 1/4th of the book. I was disappointed. The reviews talked about family, but didn't include this. I may be an old "fuddy-duddy" but that's not for me.
reviewed Plainsong on + 47 more book reviews
A New York Times Notable Book. A New Yorker Book Award Finalist. "Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelors."
reviewed Plainsong on + 49 more book reviews
I had to read this in a college lit class. I hated every word. I normally read Sci Fi or Fantasy or Mystery....this was none of those.
reviewed Plainsong on + 26 more book reviews
Enjoyable read about small town life.
reviewed Plainsong on
Simple and calming, straight-forward. For an easy read, or a gift for a pre-teen.
reviewed Plainsong on + 30 more book reviews
I love the characters in this book. And the way the author tells the story is both relaxing and enjoyable. The ending did leave me wondering what would happen next for the characters.
reviewed Plainsong on + 44 more book reviews
Another good book from this author.
reviewed Plainsong on + 88 more book reviews
I loved this book!
reviewed Plainsong on
enjoyed this book. would recommend.
reviewed Plainsong on + 132 more book reviews
Real good!
reviewed Plainsong on + 6 more book reviews
Loved this one!Sweet and funny family saga.
reviewed Plainsong on + 366 more book reviews
National Book Award Finalist
reviewed Plainsong on + 50 more book reviews
ambitious but never seeming so kent haruf reveals a whole community as he intrveavs the stories of a pregnant high school girl,a lonely tecaher, apair of boys abandoned by their mother,and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. from simple elements,haruf avhieves a novell of widom and grace.