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Kent Haruf Books In Order

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Publication Order of Plainsong Books

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Tie That Binds (1984)Description / Buy at Amazon
Where You Once Belonged (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Our Souls at Night (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Contemporary Literature and the Life of Faith Books

Listening for God Reader, Vol. 1 (By: Flannery O'Connor,Raymond Carver,Alice Walker,Garrison Keillor,Annie Dillard,Richard Rodríguez,Patricia Hampl,Peter Hawkins,Frederick Buechner,Paula J. Carlson,Peter S. Hawkins) (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
Listening for God, Vol. 2 (By: Anne Tyler,John Updike,Tobias Wolff,Gail Godwin,Henry Louis Gates Jr.,Kathleen Norris,Paula J. Carlson,Peter S. Hawkins,Carol Bly,Andrew Dubus) (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
Listening for God, Vol. 3 (By: Tillie Olsen,Wendell Berry,John Cheever,Louise Erdrich,Mary Gordon,Tess Gallagher,Reynolds Price,Oscar Hijuelos,Paula J. Carlson,Peter S. Hawkins) (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon
Listening For God, Vol. 4 (With: Robert Olen Butler,Allegra Goodman,James Baldwin,SueMiller,Doris Betts,Paula J. Carlson,Peter S. Hawkins,MichaelMalone,Alice Elliot Dark) (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Writers on Writing(2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
Listening For God, Vol. 4(2002)Description / Buy at Amazon

Kent Haruf is an award-winning literary fiction novelist from Pueblo, Colorado. He was born in 1943 to Louis Hoerauf, a Methodist preacher who changed the family name to Haruf since he was frustrated that nobody seemed to get it right. The name rhymes with sheriff though the change did not seem to work as nobody says it right to this day. The Harufs had a rootless life as Louis moved all over Colorado preaching during which time his children were encouraged to find whatever jobs they could find in the community they found themselves in. As such, Kent remembers living in more than three small towns in Colorado which colored his view of the rural setting that he writes about in Holt, the setting for all his six novels. After graduating from high school, he went to Nebraska Wesleyan University from where he graduated with a BA in literature. He then spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey, which is where he started writing fiction. Aspiring to become a professional author, Haruf moved with his family to Iowa City where he got his masters in Creative Fiction from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. He became an English professor in Wisconsin and Colorado and got his first break when his short story was published in “Puerto del Sol” a literary magazine. Motivated by the success, he published the Whittington Foundation Award-Winning novel Ties That Bind in 1984.

As a professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Haruf had all the time to write his novels and in 1991 he published “Where You Once Belonged” that was just as successful commercially as his debut. This was followed by “Plainsong,” which was a finalist for the New Yorker Book Award, the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a winner of the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award. “Benediction” made the shortlist for the Folio Prize in the UK. The success of the novel “Plainsong” made it possible for him to quit his job as a professor and go back to Salida, Colorado and become a full-time author. He went on to write “Eventide,” “Benediction” and “Our Souls At Night.” He got lung disease towards the end of his life and spent much of his time reading the likes of Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner. He died in 2014 and is survived by his wife and three daughters.

All six of Kent Haruf’s novels are set in the small town of Holt in Colorado. It is a small agricultural town that has stayed pretty much the same for nearly a century though a little of the outside world creeps in with every passing year. It is peopled by hardworking and humble folk that meet at the diner every week, attend the country fair every summer, buy and sell livestock, land, and feed, and know everything about everyone. Haruf would know all about it having grown up in the eastern Colorado high plains. His intimate love for and knowledge of small-town Colorado is probably the reason he wrote some of the best fiction about rural and small-town America. In “Plainsong” he tells an unsentimental and taut story in graceful prose that transports his readers to a deeper understanding of human connection and responsibility. Plainsong tells the story of Harold and Raymond McPheron, two bachelor farmers who take in Victoria Roubideaux, a pregnant teenager who has no one to turn to after she was turned out of her home. “Eventide” follows from the events of Plainsong as it tells the story of Victoria Roubideaux who intends to go back to college. With their surrogate daughter gone, the two bachelors fall into a boring routine of ranch life until tragedy strikes. It is different in its complexion and tone as it is full of a beautiful though somber light as compared to the jolly and jaunty feel of Plainsong. In “Benediction” Haruf provides an indelible portrait of Holt including the suffering, compassion of its inhabitants done with insight and grace. Deeply illuminating and sad, it portrays the fullness of life including the dreams and hopes and ultimately its extinction.

“Plainsong” introduces the small town of Holt, Colorado, where Victoria Roubideaux a teenage girl has been thrown out by her mother upon learning that she was pregnant. She is taken in by Maggie Jones her teacher but then has to move out since the living arrangements are complicated by the fact that her elderly father has Alzheimer’s. Maggie hands her off to the McPheron brothers who are two never married elder bachelors with a 2000 acre ranch and a relatively large house. They take her in as a surrogate daughter and Haruf infuses some tender wit into the story showing the strong sensitivity, timidity, brusque, unrefined demeanor of the McPherons. Tom who is one of Victoria’s teachers sometimes helps out on the ranch alongside his two boys aged nine and ten. His wife had abandoned them out of a severe depression that had been compounded by drug abuse. Tom is soon dating Maggie while the boys deal with bullying from some older students. Using his powers of observation and description, Haruf writes with deep emotional subtext and gentle timbre that evokes nature. Showing the power of family, love, and friends, it will still and edify the reader as it provides courage to deal with life’s challenges.

“Eventide” the second novel of the Plainsong series sees Victoria Roubideaux leave the McPheron’s as she heads off to college. Maggie Jones shows her good sense and compassion again which is what made her such a wonderful teacher. Alongside Tom and his two sons, Kent Haruf introduces several new characters from Holt. Rose is a tender-hearted social worker who has been through so much cruelty and pain since it seems she cannot put up that well to keep away the people who bring her suffering. Luther and Betty are a socially and mentally challenged couple whose efforts at parenting are dangerous and ineffective and result in almost catastrophic consequences. There is also Richie and Joy Rae who only know abuse, bullying and grinding poverty as they are the children of Luther and Betty. Haruf writes a realistic and sad yet ultimately hopeful story that shows how the residents of Holt somehow dig deep to dig themselves out of the loneliness and tough circumstances by connecting with other people. Through reaching out, they assuage their loneliness and pain and affirm their connection with other human beings.

In Kent Haruf’s “Benediction,” Lewis gets a diagnosis of terminal cancer, which means that his wife now has to work to ensure that his last days are as comfortable as they could be. Lorraine his daughter is recalled from Denver to come to look after her father though Frank the estranged son is absent. The absence of Frank is a palpable presence though no one dares talk about it. When Alice a young girl moves into the house next door and learns of Lewis’s illness, she is reminded of her mother’s painful death that had left her with a lot of emotional scars. In the meantime, a newly arrived preacher is having problems with his wife and their son. He tries to find solace by offering something different in his Sunday morning sermon only to be met with disdain. Through it all, an elderly widow and her forty-something-year-old daughter is working hard to ease the pain of their neighbors and friends.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Kent Haruf

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