Review of Eventide by Kent Haruf

Eventide follows the lives of the people from Holt, Colorado three years after the happenings of Plainsong. Haruf again demonstrates his ability to describe the relationships and worlds which old and young people share each different and nuanced in ways that do not always make sense to someone outside that age. It’s the overlap that is beautiful, those moments of friendship shared by children and adults. This novel picks up with the McPheron brothers, and follows their lives as tragedy strikes.

Added to the mix of characters are a disabled married couple dependent on social services, and trying to raise their children as best they can. This family is taken advantage of by a dead-beat relative who abuses the family and manipulates them into taken care of him. While this was well written, the antagonist is heavily painted as an ugly, despicable man. There were complaints of that in Plainsong, but to me this characterization was on display to a wider degree in Eventide. There is nothing redeemable about this character, and while it may speak more to my own view of the world,I found it short sighted and false. There was not a single scene where the character is portrayed in anyway other than evil. Perhaps, Haruf has difficulty with the ambiguity of people. Most of the other characters are full of goodness and their negative actions often don’t seem to bad, or at least do nothing to make the reader call into question their moral integrity. Among the McPherons, Victoria, Tom Guthrie and Maggie Jones, moral standing is a shared quality and though they might occasionally let go of their tempers, they become a little bland as the reader rarely sees any inner thoughts and when those thoughts are shown they don’t dwell on the doubts, or hypothetical situations that plague richer characters. Survival is the key, and it seems that the people on Holt have a bunker mentality.

One new character that best bridges this gap, is a young mother who has been abandoned by her husband. In the start of the novel, things are fine and the woman does her best to help out a young boy who lives with and takes care of his grandfather. Throughout the novel, her life descends into alcohol abuse and a dead end relationship with a local man. She goes from being a great mom to one that has trouble taking care of herself, let alone her children. As the novel ends, she takes control over her life again, and the reader is left with the image that she will pull through.

If you read Plainsong and enjoyed it, then you should read this book. It goes fast, is enjoyable and fills that craving to know more with which Plainsong leaves a reader. However, keep in mind this is a sequel that seems driven to tell a little more while not being all that original. It is a lesser work and Haruf follows some of the same patterns in writing the narrative. The instance that stands out is the character of Rose Tyler, who seems to be this novel’s version of Maggie Jones, a female character who is never fully focused on yet seems to navigate between the worlds of people whose stories would tend not to overlap. Haruf is able to pull together a sense of landscape and the affect that landscape has on people. His writing is full of beauty and heartbreak and that tends to outshine the narrative failings.

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