Plainsong by Kent Haruf is a story following several intertwining characters. The first is Tom Guthrie, a high school history teacher struggling with his students and raising his two young sons. His wife does not leave her bed, andwhen she eventually does, she leaves him and the boys. Next is Victoria Roubideaux, a student of Guthrie’s, who has just found out she is pregnant and no longer welcome in her mother’s home. Finally there are the McPheron brothers, two old men who have spent their lives on the farm their parents owned before them. Each is living their separate existences until another teacher, Maggie Jones, intersects. She tries to arrange a living situation between the ever-expanding Victoria and the McPherons, who have been on their own and know nothing about caring for a teenage girl, let alone a pregnant one. And Maggie also brings light and changes to Guthrie.
All this is set in the small-town of Holt, Colorado. Everyone knows the business of everyone else, and everyone has an opinion about it too. While I liked this dynamic of the book, I was often frustrated by the way some of the characters acted and talked, it made some of them seem too “hick” and backward. I couldn’t ever decided when this narrative was supposed to be taking place, and that added to my frustration as well.
My favorite parts were told from the perspectives of Victoria and from Guthrie’s two sons. The slow growth of the relationship between Victoria and the two gruff farmers was heart-warming and often humorous. And the hypocrisies and hostilities of the adult world are especially poignant through the eyes of Gutherie’s sons. Overall, the characters of Plainsong steal the show from a plot that is never surprising, but often reflects true life.