After reading and enjoying Haruf’s newest book, Benediction, I thought I should go back and read the book that got Haruf nominated the National Book Award. Plainsong takes place in the same fictional Plains town, Holt, Colorado. Much like Benediction, Plainsong follows the stories of several different townspeople and examines their ordinary lives in simple, yet beautiful language. The main focus of this story is a teenage girl who gets pregnant and kicked out of her mother’s house and the two elderly rancher brothers who take her in. At the same time, a high school teacher is trying to care for his two young boys after their mother abandons them. There are a lot of contrasts in the book: life and death, becoming a parent and abandoning parenthood, cruelty and kindness.
Again, I loved Haruf’s language and writing style. It impresses me how he can create such vivid scenes with such sparse language. There is a scene where the pregnant girl is at a doctor’s visit and it was such an ordinary, common moment, but it still was memorable and vivid. Unfortunately, I was just not as into the plot or characters of this book (though the elderly McPheron brothers were hilarious and wonderful). I am not sure if it was just me– I wasn’t entirely in the mood for this sort of book when I read it– or if this book just wasn’t as strong as Benediction.
Recently, Jamie wrote a great post about being a mood reader. And, like it or not, I am a mood reader. I sort of wish I hadn’t tried to force this book when I wasn’t ready for it, but I guess it happens. Next time I am in the mood for great language and ordinary life, I will be picking up Eventide (the other book of Haruf’s set in this same town). Until then, however, I have (re)learned the hard lesson that I can’t force a book when I am not in the mood for it.