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Eventide by Kent Haruf

August 15, 2015

eventide

In 2008, I wrote of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, “There is not an over-written word in the book.” That applies as much to Eventide. The word that kept coming to mind with the light description and subtle ways of the characters in Eventide is “gentle.” Haruf has such a light touch, as if his style is a deliberate attempt to mimic the low, flat horizon of his fictional small town of Holt, Colorado.

Eventide picks up stories of a few of the characters from Plainsong. Two elderly brothers, Harold and Raymond McPheron, live on their farm outside of town. They were an insular household until, in Plainsong, they were asked to take in a teenage girl and her newborn daughter who needed help. They obliged, and now that girl, Victoria, heads off to college and the brothers are back to being empty nesters of a sort.

There are other plotlines as well, other characters dealing with very real issues in their lives, even a bit of danger in this book. Haruf’s style is so understated that when something big does happen, it’s all the more memorable. But mostly this book is about the character of the characters, the values of the small town of Holt, and the community as people deal with various forms of conflict, loneliness, love and loss. Haruf doesn’t shy away from sadness, but he doesn’t over-sentimentalize either. It’s just is a part of life.

“More Winesberg than Mayberry,” one reviewer wrote, comparing Holt to one of my favorite books, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesberg, Ohio. Haruf passed away in 2014, but he has several other books, all set in Holt. I will make my way through those too, I imagine.

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