Book recommendations: Check out Colorado author Kent Haruf’s novels

Book recommendations: Check out Colorado author Kent Haruf’s novels


Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more.

Colorado is home to many amazing authors, among them Peter Heller (“The Dog Stars”), Helen Thorpe (“The Newcomers”), John Dunning (the Cliff Janeway series), Margaret Coel (the Wind River series), and our own regional book reviewer Sandra Dallas (who has written 16 adult novels to date, including her latest, “Little Souls,” due out this month).

My favorite is Kent Haruf, author of “Plainsong.”

In a 2013 review of another Haruf novel, “Benediction,” the Denver Post’s Tucker Shaw wrote: “Colorado author Kent Haruf has an extraordinary grasp of quiet.”

Sigh. Lovely.

Haruf, who was born in Pueblo and died in Salida in 2014 at the age of 71, had a poignant, graceful way to his storytelling and his view of Colorado’s Eastern Plains and of Western temperament. His novels — of which there are only six, including the trilogy “Plainsong,” “Eventide” and “Benediction” — are a lesson in controlled writing, gorgeous character development, intensely descriptive settings that just put you right there, and sublime plot finesse.

His final novel, “Our Souls at Night,” was released posthumously. (It was made into a 2017 film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.)

All of Haruf’s novels are set in fictional Holt, based on the town of Yuma. “Plainsong,” published in 1999, became a bestseller and was a finalist for the National Book Award. In it, we meet Tom Guthrie, father to two boys whose wife is drifting away; elderly brothers Raymond and Harold McPheron, ranchers orphaned at a young age who have always had each other; and Victoria Roubideaux, who is 17, pregnant and defiantly alone. They and others learn to rely on each other for friendship, love and survival.

The descriptions, the settings, the imagery: all luscious. From “Plainsong”:

“They set out in the bright cold day, riding in the pickup, the girl seated in the middle between them with a blanket over her lap, with the old papers and sales receipts and fencing pliers and the hot wire testers and the dirty coffee mugs all sliding back and forth across the dashboard whenever they made any sharp turn, driving north toward Holt, passing through town and beneath the new water tower and carrying on north, the country flat and whitepatched with snow and the wheat stubble and the cornstalks sticking up blackly out of the frozen ground and the winter wheat showing in the fall-planted fields as green as jewelry.”

Whew. So much there, pushing you on to read, read, read more.

Which is what I would urge you to do.

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