Eventide by Kent Haruf

eventideI loved Plainsong so I’ve been saving up Eventide; I don’t want to rush through Haruf’s books too quickly.  In the end I didn’t enjoy Eventide as much as Plainsong, although I’ll certainly keep reading.

Eventide is the second book in a trilogy that takes place in the small town of Holt, Colorado.  Plainsong tells the story of Victoria Robideaux, a teenager who becomes pregnant and is taken in by two elderly brothers who manage a ranch.  Eventide continues this story while introducing a variety of new characters.  We are introduced to DJ, an 11 year old who lives with his elderly grandfather; DJ’s neighbors the Wells family, and a family on welfare, the Wallaces.

Be warned: the early part of Eventide is a tearjerker.  I had to put it down a few times and then come back to it.  I thought, if the first part of this book is so emotional, what is the rest of it going to be like?  But the rest of the book is less dramatic, which is both good and bad.

As with Plainsong, this is a powerful and often dark story about characters living difficult lives.  This book focuses on children who do not get the support or protection they need from their parents.  The writing is beautiful, as with Haruf’s other books.  I love the connections drawn between nature (the landscape, weather, animal behavior, etc.) and human behavior.  Haruf writes about the power of basic human interactions: friendship, kindness, attraction, neglect, cruelty.  Sometimes the story is dramatic, and sometimes it’s just about people who like each other.

I thought this book might follow a similar pattern to Plainsong, in that Raymond would discover someone else he could help, and happiness would ensue.  This book is less straightforward than Plainsong.  The good characters are less perfect, more troubled; although this book does have a clear villain.

Sadly, the book fell a little flat for me in the end.  I think Haruf introduced a few too many characters (Linda May, Rose Tyler), and the second half didn’t feel cohesive.  I loved Raymond’s story, but I really wanted more DJ, and I felt he got a little lost with the stories about the Wallaces and the Wells, especially since there were so many children at similar ages.  And while the story about the Wallaces (a family struggling with welfare and trying to become better parents) is really powerful, the story about Mary Wells is less so.

As with Plainsong, women are viewed at a bit of a distance here; they are mostly seen from the perspective of their relationships with the male characters.  I don’t think that’s a problem, necessarily, but the male characters are more interesting and more complex.

I’m pretty sure every book by Haruf is worth reading.  There is a lot of beauty in this one, I just wish more time was spent on fewer characters.

  2 comments for “Eventide by Kent Haruf

  1. July 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    this is one i mean to read at some point.

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