Shortlisted for The Folio Prize 2014
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.
©2013 Kent Haruf (P)2013 Random House Audio
"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
The book seems slow at first as the daily life is described of a family in a small town a few hours drive from Denver, Colorado. Latterly I realised that this seemingly parochial beginning gets one well acquainted with the characters so that their feelings and fate matter as gradually family tensions and resentments are revealed.
A melancholy mood pervades the book as the patriarch of the family learns he has terminal cancer. A diagnosis that leads him to think about his life and his relationships with his family. He’s been an unforgiving father at times, bearing grudges and not showing enough affection to his family. A subsidiary story involving the local minister echoes the theme of forgiveness, even of ones enemies.
If you’ve been with a loved one as they die the final scenes will bring tears to your eyes as upsetting memories are revived.
The narrator’s voice catches perfectly the sombre tone of the book.
Not a happy listen but a memorable one that made me think about important issues.
A sensitive, well written novel enhanced by the excellent narration
It is a story about normal everyday experiences - in this case a long life and marriage, family relationships and social history.
It made me sad but I enjoyed it if that makes sense!
Kent Haruf is an outstanding writer and I have enjoyed all of his books.
"Another Home Run for Haruf & Bramhall"
I’m sure many will not exactly enjoy this story—it’s hardly something to take to the beach, it’s quite the opposite. The subject (a dying patriarch) and the aspects of the personalities visited in Benediction are relentlessly dark. But Haruf’s fictional Holt, Colorado and his characters are so real and so finely wrought as to be palpable. Mark Bramhall is the perfect narrator, he makes this novel into a work of art.
Another superb study of small town life, this one featuring the beloved, elderly proprietor of the local hardware store who is dying of cancer. These are his last weeks. He reviews his life in his own mind. Friends and townspeople come to visit and say goodbye. The support they give his wife and daughter is a written as a wonderful tribute to a close-knit community, which the author clearly loves, but still, he does not fail to skewer them viciously in a sub-plot about bigotry in the guise of religion and the power/hypocrisy of church politics.
There is also a hilarious scene involving a bunch of old ladies and one little girl who go skinny-dipping on a hot day in the cows' water tank. i don't usually read novels written by men because they can't write female characters realistically....but this scene was right on, and just hysterical!
The reader is perfect. His voice sounds so comforting and gentle, I could listen to him all day. He was born to read Ken Haruf's books.
A benediction is a blessing and that is exactly what this book is. Kent Haruf writes about the lives of ordinary people in such a way that I'm left feeling I know them and remember them. I wrote a similar comment when reviewing Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. Haruf's ability to look into the soul of his characters reminds me of Stegner.
Benediction is about Dad Lewis who is dying of cancer. The story revolves around his experiences and those of the people who are close to him. It's an unhurried book perfect in it's simplicity. There are no earth shattering twists to the plot. Beautifully written and expertly narrated by Mark Bramhall, it never slides into sentimentality. Ultimately this is an uplifting story that reveals the ways we live and the values we live by. I strongly recommend it and Haruf's other books as well.
"A solid story, perfectly told, value added reading"
Bramhall's reading adds so much to an already masterful story, perfectly told.
It's utter simplicity and truth.
Dad's death, but it's hard to choose.
I wouldn't rename it.
"Benediction - what a way to end your life........."
The absolutely normal but complex way the author integrated the characters
That life is so full of interest and importance no matter how outwardly insignificant the players appear to be.
where all the girls - old and young - went skinny dipping!
The little girl - what sort of an adult will she become having been shown the undemanding love of four lonely women.
Very human portrayal of every aspect of life - realistic but not overly moralist. Well read and worth listening to again, looking forward to some more from this author.
"Best of the series...."
Like the previous books in the series this book approaches the simple life in small town America. Several storylines cross and play out in a similar way to the first two installments. No real connections to the other books but very similar feel.
The ending however for me was what made this book special. Anyone who has gone through the process in their family may revisit old emotions in a powerful, but for me, a beautiful way. Best of the series.
"What a Delightful story"
Interesting characters facing life and death and life again. The narrator is unusually good. This is the third book in a series.
"Brilliance interspersed with tediousness"
The author is at times brilliant, insightful and poignant as he interweaves the relationships among people in a fictional small town, Holt, Colorado. The reader is drawn deeply into the lives of these "average" lower- middle class people .
"Dad" Lewis is dying of cancer, and with that awareness of impending death, comes reflection on his life. Haruf touched my heart with his intimate description of the love between "Dad" Lewis and his wife Mary. Haruf portrays other characters with great skill, as well.
Unfortunately, too much detail makes some of the book tedious. We hear that Mary stops at a gas station and uses the restroom. Do we really need to know that she puts toilet paper on the toilet seat, washes her hands and dries them on a paper towel?
I listened to this on Audible, and it was rather slow moving. Perhaps, if I read the text on Kindle ( I did buy this on Kindle, also) it would intrigue me even more.
"Sad but peaceful"
I was not sure about this book when I selected it. I was concerned that it would be depressing, but it surprisingly was reassuring and left me with positive, almost inspiring feelings. The book provides a glimmer of the true process of dealing with the final phases of life. It provides insight into why the little and simple human experiences are important.
I do not think I would have enjoyed or even understood this book had I read / listened to it in my 20's. I also think I walked away with a deeper reflection since I have children and often think about ways to make their lives meaningful.
This novel has a "centering" impact and I would encourage listeners to read it if they are looking for a good life story that through the simple aspects of human experience provides the depth of human experience. I think that there are pieces to this story that everyone could relate to.
Slice of life
The prose and the simplicity with which Haruf paints such a rich picture of his characters.
Favorite is not really a good word, as Haruf shows us the main characters' flaws, which make them somewhat unlikeable, but he balances that with good, solid supporting characters to make them multidimensional, as people truly are.
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