Benediction (Plainsong 3) Paperback – 27 Feb 2014
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"The precious ordinary," as one character puts it, is the central concern of this remarkable book. Benediction is quiet and nearly uneventful, but it is also unforgettable. A small rural community swims into focus as vividly as if seen through a pair of binoculars; the characters endure stoically; the emotions are largely unspoken and yet all the more moving for that, and entirely believable. In the very best sense, it is an old-fashioned novel-virtuous and kind-hearted, dealing with issues that are timeless. (Anne Tyler)
In Benediction, a fine contender for the inaugural Folio Prize, Kent Haruf's beautifully spare prose charts the events of that summer with unpretentious aplomb . . . Sensual descriptions of landscape and weather create an impression of timelessness . . . After a sudden twist, the novel ends, like the ritual after which it is named, on a note of transcendental peace. (Daily Telegraph *****)
Haruf's characters, like Pierre and Natasha or Huck Finn, inhabit my mind permanently: they are people I think about . . . Haruf handles human relationships with fierce, reticent delicacy, exploring rage, fidelity, pity, honour, timidity, the sense of obligation; he deals with complex, barely stated moral issues, pushing perhaps towards an unspoken mysticism . . . his courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love - the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection - are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction . . . Haruf is in fact a stunningly original writer in a great many ways. The quality of his originality goes right under the radar of much conventional criticism. He doesn't posture or raise his voice. He talks quietly, intimately, yet with reserve, as one adult to another. He's careful to get the story right. And it is right, it's just right; it rings true. (Guardian)
This spring I started reading Kent Haruf. Benediction, his latest book, is about an old man who is dying of lung cancer. Haruf describes the act of dying almost like the act of giving birth: a natural process, a slipping in and out of morphine dreams, a gradual withdrawal. I wrote to Kent Haruf to tell him how much I liked his novels, for the precision of his vocabulary, for the grace that runs through his books, and for the realism. Some of his protagonists recover; others do not. There are good people and bad people, gentle rhythms infused with harsher notes. I thought, I wrote, of Laura Ingalls Wilder overlaid with Cormac McCarthy. American Wild implies loss, as well as exhilaration, and danger. All of that is there in Haruf, along with a measure of grace and peace of mind. (Sigrid Rausing Independent)
‘A brilliant end to his brilliant Plainsong trilogy.’ Lucy Mangan, Stylist
'Kent Haruf describes Dad Lewis's last summer with beautiful simplicity . . . Haruf's existing fans have been waiting patiently for Benediction for years. They won't be surprised by how fine this book is, but newcomers to his writing will be reaching for his previous novels to catch up.' Sunday Express
In spare, Cormac McCarthy-like prose, Kent Haruf writes about facing death in modern America. (Independent on Sunday)
'Haruf is the master of what one of his characters calls "the precious ordinary". . . . With understated language and startling emotional insight, he makes you feel awe at even the most basic of human gestures.' Ben Goldstein, Esquire
Benediction is as richly laced with metaphysics as its title suggests . . . The most affecting moments of this supremely graceful novel are conjured by farewells to the quotidian. (Times Literary Supplement)
‘Benediction suggests there’s no end to the stories Haruf can tell about Holt or to the tough, gorgeous language he can summon in the process.’ New York Times
'Truly showcases the novel as an art form.' Psychologies
'We’ve waited a long time for an invitation back to Holt, home to Kent Haruf’s novels. . . He may be the most muted master in American fiction [and] Benediction seems designed to catch the sound of those fleeting good moments [with] scenes Hemingway might have written had he survived.' Ron Charles, Washington Post
'His finest-tuned tale yet. . . . There is a deep, satisfying music to this book, as Haruf weaves between such a large cast of characters in so small a space. . . . Strangely, wonderfully, the moment of a man's passing can be a blessing in the way it brings people together. Benediction recreates this powerful moment so gracefully it is easy to forget that, like [the town of] Holt, it is a world created by one man.' John Freeman, The Boston Globe
'Reverberant… From the terroir and populace of his native American West, the author of Plainsong and Eventide again draws a story elegant in its simple telling and remarkable in its authentic capture of universal human emotions.' Brad Hooper, Booklist
'Haruf is maguslike in his gifts. . . to illuminate the inevitable ways in which tributary lives meander toward confluence. . . . Perhaps not since Hemingway has an American author triggered such reader empathy with so little reliance on the subjectivity of his characters. . . . [This] is a modestly wrought wonder from one of our finest living writers.' Bruce Machart, The Houston Chronicle
'Grace and restraint are abiding virtues in Haruf's fiction, and they resume their place of privilege in his new work. . . . For readers looking for the rewards of an intimate, meditative story, it is indeed a blessing.' Karen R. Long, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
'As Haruf's precise details accrue, a reader gains perspective: This is the story of a man's life, and the town where he spent it, and the people who try to ease its end. . . . His sentences have the elegance of Hemingway's early work [and his] determined realism, which admits that not all of our past actions or the reasons behind them are knowable, even to ourselves, is one of the book's satisfactions.' John Reimringer, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
There's something of the tone of Joyce's Dubliners in Haruf's simply-told tale of elderly Dad Lewis, diagnosed with cancer and living out his last summer. An elegiac tone, of someone who has already gone, gives Haruf's prose its extraordinary dignity and humanity. (Sunday Herald)
About the Author
Kent Haruf's honors include a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation. Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New Yorker Book Award. Benediction was shortlisted for the Folio Prize.
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Top Customer Reviews
Benediction completes a trilogy which is, I believe, one of the great creations of contemporary American fiction. I don't think there's much more I can say about it than that.
So many characters are vividly portrayed with words used sparingly, their lives and aspirations laid bare. Amongst them is preacher Lyle, himself at a turning point. Congregations have been outraged when reminded what Christ's teaching means in practical terms. They want rid.
I know nothing of Kent Haruf's earlier work, an omission clearly needing to be remedied. Here is a tale evocatively told and hauntingly sad, the style direct and totally involving. We are intimately present at a dying and a death - only to be reminded that this, at the time so important, is but a very minor matter in the overall scheme of things.
The ordinary has been pinpointed and elevated into something special.
He endures visits from neighbours, friends, his employees, the local pastor, the hospice nurse; all gathering around his deathbed to offer their support, affection, compassion, goodbyes and friendship. But, although the subject of impending death is unquestionably sad, this novel rises above that, and, by the addition of other new characters, examines the joy and hope that Daisy, the young grandchild of Dad Lewis’ neighbour brings to the wider community with her fresh young experiences. Another character new to the neighbourhood is Reverend Rob Lyle, who has a crisis within his ministry and is also dealing with a very troubled son and deeply unhappy wife, whilst experiencing problems within his congregation. Humour is injected into scenes as well, which lightens such a dark and sad story.
This is the third and final novel in the evocative and wonderful Plainsong trilogy.
Perhaps I have made this sound totally gloomy and sad, but it is not. There are plenty light hearted passages like the three generations of "girls" deciding on a sweltering hot day to strip naked and go skinning dipping in the cattle water tank. We also get glimpses of family life behind closed doors as the preacher and his wife struggle to hold their marriage together, not helped by the love life of their teenage son. The town turns on the Rev. Rob Lyle as his honest preaching rocks their comfortable boat. He is sacked, but Dad Lewis true to his principles to the end demands that he takes his funeral and if no church will allow in the Rev. Lyle then the services will be in the Lewis garden.
No one captures the humanity of ordinary people better than Kent Haruf. He writes with a beautiful economical style which again captivated me from page one.
Buy it and you are in for a rare treat.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Holt, Colorado, is a very ordinary little town invented by Haruf for the setting of his three novels Plainsong, Eventide and Benediction. Read morePublished 5 months ago by TripFiction
This is the third volume in the author’s Plainsong Trilogy (see my reviews of the first two volumes, Plainsong and Eventide). Read morePublished 6 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
Benediction is the third volume in Kent Haruf's trilogy set in the rural American community of Holt. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Stephanie Jane
As the third book in the Plainsong trilogy, I expected this to provide an update on the lives of the same characters covered by the previous two. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Carol Farrell
My least favourite of the series. Gentle touching honest and a nice read. Maybe if I hadn't read the others first I would have rated it higher. Read morePublished 9 months ago by holli
I thought this 3rd book would be a story continuation of the first 2 books. However, although set in the same town and with the occasional passing reference to previous characters,... Read morePublished 9 months ago by aprilshine
Oh my, what a different tale. So unexpected. Had just lost my father in law to cancer. This was very cathartic. Read morePublished 11 months ago by jules parker-platt
Beautifully written, characters are poignant and engaging. The writer portrays the life in a small community with all its variations with skill and sensitivity.Published 12 months ago by Mrs Teresa Trafford