Most helpful critical review
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2008
Kent Haruf's Plainsong reads like a collection of intertwined short stories more than a novel. I suppose the title emphasises simplicity, both in the writing and in the protagonists' destinies, as well as that plainsong is the music of several overlapping voices. Still, the technique is hardly revolutionary. And the problem with Haruf's novel is that only one of the stories really appeals, that of the pregnant teenager who finds refuge among the unlikely, old farmer brothers. That one is touching and even has good moments of conflict and suspense. But while the rest is readable, it tastes too much of the worn-out, divorce-among-academics-and-the-impact-on-the-kids theme.
The book is set in rural Colorado, and if verisimilar descriptions of heifers giving birth or horses being autopsied are your thing, it may appeal to you more than it did to me. Even that, though, can get maudlin at times, in spite of the austere title. And the author constantly makes use of the article "the" instead of the indefinite to refer to as yet undefined things or people. This is all right once in a while, but Haruf over-uses the trick; it forces the reader's attention artificially and gets annoying, the written equivalent of people who finish all their sentences with an interrogative up tone. Right?