Plainsong, by Kent Haruf, is the kind of book that you read feeling like you kind of know what’s coming…there are no great surprises in plot, no great mysteries. Yet the telling of the story is so beautifully done, the characters so real and true and honest, that you don’t mind that you’ve pretty much figured out how things will turn out.
Plainsong is a story told from many different angles and edges. There is the schoolteacher, Maggie Jones, who is a kind and giving woman, who turns out to be the fabric that binds the other narratives together. There is Guthrie, the father of two young boys, also a school teacher. He refuses to allow a class bully to get away with cruelty when he sees it, and we find out where such cruel children generally learn their ways. There are Guthrie’s sons, Bobby and Ike, who learn a lot about the ways of the world while delivering newspapers in the mornings, collecting for papers in the afternoons, and wiling away the hours in between. There are the McPheron brothers, two crusty men living on a cattle ranch, who have not known the kindness of human love since their parents died when they were young teens. They are isolated and lonely, and yet more than willing to open their hearts when someone comes along who needs them. There is Victoria Roubideaux, a 17 year old girl who finds herself pregnant with no one to turn to when her mother kicks her out. The way these stories intersect and intertwine is lovely and beautiful, because Haruf’s prose is a spot on depiction of decent, yet troubled, people, and the ways that they succeed and fail in the isolated small town life of the prairies of Colorado.
I really enjoyed this book, and I really felt for the characters. Highly recommended.