Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Benediction by Kent Haruf

A very special book. Kent Haruf has written several elegant stories set in the Midwest. (Plainsong and Eventide) to name two) .This is set in a small town Holt, Colorado, where everyone knows everyone. There are actually three stories in this book: The story of Dad Lewis as he struggles with terminal cancer. He and his wife want nothing more than to allow him to die in dignity at home. It's the story of Alice, the young girl who has just moved next door to live with her grandmother after her mother died from cancer. And it's the story of a new pastor and his struggles with his own family relationships and his ministering to the town. There are other characters, each depicted perfectly in simple prose with little psychological analysis who contribute to the quality of life of the town and especially of the Lewis family. Ultimately though, it's the story of life and death, living and dying, and of Dad Lewis, his wife, and his children.

Lorraine, his daughter, comes home from Denver almost as soon as she learns about her father's fate. Her willingness to help both her father and her mother is a beautiful tribute to how her parents raised her. Frank, the son, has disappeared and hasn't been heard from in years. He and his parents were unable to come to grips with his "different" sexuality, and his absence is as big a character as he would have been had he been present throughout Dad's last months.

As each townsperson appears, we learn more about Dad and Mary, we see them raising children, founding a business and building a life together. We watch as Mary quietly accepts the inevitable and goes about making Dad's last days as comfortable as possible.

This should have been a tear-jerker, but instead it's a beautiful story of how far we've come in our understanding of death, how helpful the hospice movement is, and how important the sense of family and friendship is in living a full life and dying a dignified death.

It's a book I'm definitely nominating as one of the best of 2013. Readable, touching, and memorable.

Title: Benediction
Author: Kent Haruf
Publisher:Knopf (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Subject: death, dying, small town life
Setting: Holt Colorado
Source: public library
Why did I read this book now? I liked other books by the author.


  1. I loved this one, so I was happy to see that you enjoyed it as well.

  2. I so enjoyed Haruf's book Plainsong that I put this on hold at our local library. Of course it arrived just when I wrapping up the school year (I teach elementary children), and there was no time! But, I hope to get to it some day.

    Thank you for the sweet comments you left on my blog, and I'm so glad you're joining in the Japanese Literature Challenge 7!


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