Eventide / Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf, a native of Colorado, called that state home throughout most of his life. And as a writer, he followed the adage, “Write what you know.” All six of his published novels are set in the fictitious small town of Holt, Colorado. A sequel to Plainsong, Eventide was published in 2004. I read Plainsong last June, and was impressed with the author’s storytelling ability, as well as his skill in capturing the rhythms and complexities of small town life. In no way did Eventide disappoint the expectations that the first book raised.

In my review of Plainsong, I made specific mention of the McPheron brothers, two crusty bachelor farmers (with hearts of gold) who played a big role there. In Eventide, one of the brothers again plays a major role. But Haruf broadens the book’s scope to include a number of the “bit players” featured in the previous work and adds new members to the cast as well. I instantly felt at home as I stepped back into the streets of Holt. And once again, I delighted in Haruf’s ability to present his characters with such compassion and true-to-life precision.

On the page, Haruf presents a good sampling of Holt’s social strata. There are the outlying weather-beaten farmers, a woman with two children coping with an absent husband’s request for a divorce, a family on welfare with an abusive alcoholic uncle, a teacher and a social worker, as well as a sprinkling of side characters to fully populate this High Plains community.

The novel features both cruelty and kindness, but mostly it focuses on decent people and their abilities to cope, adapt, and heal from unexpected tragedy. For anyone who has lived in a small town, Haruf’s prose will ring true. Sadly, the author died in 2014 at age seventy-one due to interstitial lung disease. Fortunately for readers everywhere, Holt still lives and breathes on the pages of his novels.

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