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Plainsong    by Kent Haruf order for
by Kent Haruf
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

What is a family? It is hard to tell these days, but if you believe that it is a place where a person can grow with care and be loved, then you will appreciate this wonderful book by Kent Haruf.

At first it looks like all the characters in Plainsong are misfits of some sort. There is a man whose wife is unable to handle her marriage and whose young sons cannot understand what is happening to their mom. Then there is a frightened and pregnant high school girl, a high school counselor whose dad is senile and two old bachelor brothers, who know nothing else but farming and badgering each other.

They all live in a rural area, and their lives intersect very quietly and naturally, which is part of the beauty of this novel. The story is written in the third person, but it is unfolded to us through the various characters. Gradually we are able to piece the individual stories together and follow how their lives intertwine so that at the end we see a beautiful whole that really is bigger than the sum of its parts. Even the discordant voices in this work are treated with respect and understanding.

Plainsong is for everyone, especially those who despair at how the present-day social fabric in America is usually depicted.

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