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Authors: Kent Haruf

Tags: #Fiction, #Family Life, #Literary, #Religious

Benediction

Benediction
Kent Haruf
Knopf (2013)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Literary, Religious, Family Life, Fiction

From the beloved and best-selling author of
Plainsong
and
Eventide
comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado.

When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife, Mary, must work together to make his final days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter, Lorraine, hastens back from Denver to help look after him; her devotion softens the bitter absence of their estranged son, Frank, but this cannot be willed away and remains a palpable presence for all three of them. Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother and contends with the painful memories that Dad's condition stirs up of her own mother's death. Meanwhile, the town’s newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and teenaged son, a task that proves all the more challenging when he faces the disdain of his congregation after offering more than they are accustomed to getting on a Sunday morning. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors.

Despite the travails that each of these families faces, together they form bonds strong enough to carry them through the most difficult of times.  Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating,
Benediction
captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. Here Kent Haruf gives us his most indelible portrait yet of this small town and reveals, with grace and insight, the compassion, the suffering and, above all, the humanity of its inhabitants. 

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013
: Kent Haruf writes about small towns and regular people, but don’t underestimate his ambition. He is writing about
life
, and to do that he has returned again and again--first with
Plainsong
, later with
Eventide--
to the small town of Holt, located on the eastern plains of Colorado. In
Benediction
, Haruf introduces us to Dad Lewis, a 77-year-old hardware store owner who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The experience of reading Haruf is a slow burn, but as we meet the people who gather around Dad Lewis in his final days we begin to see that this is a book about community, about the things that bind us, as well as the secrets we keep to ourselves. Haruf writes with a tense, quiet realism that elevates life and death, granting both a dignity that touches on poetry. --Chris Schluep

Review

“His finest-tuned tale yet. . . . There is a deep, satisfying music to this book, as Haruf weaves between such a large cast of characters in so small a space. . . . Strangely, wonderfully, the moment of a man's passing can be a blessing in the way it brings people together. 
Benediction
recreates this powerful moment so gracefully it is easy to forget that, like [the town of] Holt, it is a world created by one man.” —John Freeman,
The Boston Globe

“Haruf is the master of what one of his characters calls 'the precious ordinary'. . . . With understated language and startling emotional insight, he makes you feel awe at even the most basic of human gestures.” —Ben Goldstein,
Esquire

“Grace and restraint are abiding virtues in Haruf's fiction, and they resume their place of privilege in his new work. . . . For readers looking for the rewards of an intimate, meditative story, it is indeed a blessing.” —Karen R. Long,
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Haruf is maguslike in his gifts. . . to illuminate the inevitable ways in which tributary lives meander toward confluence. . . . Perhaps not since Hemingway has an American author triggered such reader empathy with so little reliance on the subjectivity of his characters. . . . [This] is a modestly wrought wonder from one of our finest living writers.” —Bruce Machart,
The Houston Chronicle

“As Haruf's precise details accrue, a reader gains perspective: This is the story of a man's life, and the town where he spent it, and the people who try to ease its end. . . . His sentences have the elegance of Hemingway's early work [and his] determined realism, which admits that not all of our past actions or the reasons behind them are knowable, even to ourselves, is one of the book's satisfactions.” —John Reimringer,
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“We’ve waited a long time for an invitation back to Holt, home to Kent Haruf’s novels. . . He may be the most muted master in American fiction [and]
Benediction
seems designed to catch the sound of those fleeting good moments [with] scenes Hemingway might have written had he survived.” —Ron Charles,
Washington Post

“Reverberant… From the
terroir
and populace of his native American West, the author of
Plainsong
and
Eventide
again draws a story elegant in its simple telling and remarkable in its authentic capture of universal human emotions.” – Brad Hooper,
Booklist

THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK
PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF

Copyright © 2013 by Kent Haruf

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division
of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited,
Toronto.

www.aaknopf.com

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Haruf, Kent.
Benediction / Kent Haruf.—1st ed.
p.   cm.
“This is a Borzoi book.”
eISBN: 978-0-307-96215-7
1. Families—Colorado—Fiction.   I. Title.
PS
3558.
A
716
B
46 2013     813′.54—dc23     2012028744

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously
.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
coincidental
.

Jacket photograph by Lorry Eason/Millennium Images, UK
Jacket design by Carol Devine Carson

v3.1

For Cathy

Contents

 

Benediction—the utterance of a blessing, an invocation of blessedness.

1

W
HEN THE TEST
came back the nurse called them into the examination room and when the doctor entered
the room he just looked at them and asked them to sit down. They could tell by the
look on his face where matters stood.

Go on ahead, Dad Lewis said, say it.

I’m afraid I don’t have very good news for you, the doctor said.

When they went back downstairs to the parking lot it was late in the afternoon.

You drive, Dad said. I don’t want to.

Are you feeling so bad, honey?

No. I don’t feel that much worse. I just want to look out at this country. I won’t
be coming out here again.

I don’t mind driving for you, she said. And we can come this way again anytime if
you want to.

They drove out from Denver away from the mountains, back onto the high plains: sagebrush
and soapweed and blue grama and buffalo grass in the pastures, wheat and corn in the
planted fields. On both sides of the highway were the gravel county roads going out
away under the pure blue sky, all the roads straight as the lines ruled in a book,
with only a few small isolated towns spread across the flat open country.

It was sundown when they got home. By then the air was starting to cool off. She parked
the car in front of their house at the west edge of Holt on the gravel street and
Dad got out and stood looking for a while. The old white house built in 1904, the
first on the street which
wasn’t even much of a street then, and still only three or four houses there yet when
he bought it in 1948, the year he and Mary were married. He was twenty-two, working
at the hardware store on Main Street, then the old lame man who owned it made up his
mind to move away to live with his daughter and he offered Dad the option of purchasing
it, and he was a known man in town by then, the bankers knew him, and gave him the
loan without question. So he was the proprietor of the local hardware store.

It was a frame house sided with clapboard, two-story with a red shingled roof, with
an old-fashioned black wrought iron fence around it and an iron gate with spears and
hard loops at the top. Out back was an old red barn and a pole corral grown over with
tall weeds, and beyond that there was nothing but the open country.

He went inside to the downstairs bedroom to put on old pants and a sweater and came
back out and sat down in one of the porch chairs.

She came out to find him. Do you want supper now? I could make you a sandwich.

No. I don’t want anything. Maybe if you could bring me a beer.

You don’t want anything to eat?

You go on ahead without me.

Do you want a glass?

No.

She went inside and returned with the cold bottle.

Thank you, he said.

She went back in. He drank from the bottle and sat looking out at the quiet empty
street in the summer evening. The neighbor Berta May’s yellow house next door and
the other houses beyond it, running up to the highway, and the vacant lot directly
across the street, and the railroad tracks three blocks in the other direction, all
of that part of town still empty and undeveloped between his property and the tracks.
In the trees in front of the house the leaves were blowing a little.

She brought a tray of crackers and cheese and an apple cut up in quarters and a glass
of iced tea. Would you like any of this? She held
out the tray to him. He took a piece of apple and she sat down beside him in the other
porch chair.

Well. That’s it, he said. That’s the deal now. Isn’t it.

He might be wrong. They’re wrong sometimes, she said. They can’t be so sure.

I don’t want to let myself think that way. I can feel it in me that they’re right.
I don’t have much time left.

Oh I don’t want to believe that.

Yeah. But I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s going to be.

I don’t want you to go yet, she said. She reached across and took his hand. I don’t.
There were tears in her eyes. I’m not ready.