Reviews for Benediction


Booklist Reviews 2013 February #1
*Starred Review* From the terroir and populace of his native American West, the author of Plainsong (1999) and Eventide (2004) again draws a story elegant in its simple telling and remarkable in its authentic capture of universal human emotions. The last, dying days of old Dad Lewis supply the framework for this sober yet reverberant novel. Dad owns a store in a small Colorado town, and his terminal illness draws out the compassion of his adult daughter, whom Dad wants to take over his business upon his imminent passing, and sparks an arousal in his long-devoted wife to seek some degree of resolution to an unhealed family wound. Dad's closing days also stir emotions in other town residents who are in Dad's realm of acquaintances, including the girl who moved in next door to stay with her grandmother and whose memories of her deceased mother remain raw; the new minister in town who suddenly rebels against the reluctance of his congregation to think about new ideas; and a mother and daughter, the former advanced in years and the latter now in middle age, who still confront traits in each other that they would just as soon not see. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 March
The beauty of everyday moments

Nine years after the publication of his last novel, Kent Haruf returns with the final volume of what is likely to be thought of, along with its predecessor Eventide and 1999’s Plainsong, as the Holt Trilogy. Whether he’s portraying life in this small town on Colorado’s high plains or the complex inner lives of his outwardly simple characters, Haruf brings to this latest story the same empathy and insight that have marked his earlier novels.

Benediction unfolds over the course of a summer that measures out the final days of Dad Lewis, the septuagenarian owner of Holt’s hardware store. Outwardly he’s resigned to his fate, but his last months are dogged by regrets over nearly four decades of estrangement from his gay son and memories of his handling of an employee’s embezzlement that had tragic consequences. Though he’s not religious “in any orthodox way,” Dad’s life is governed by a strict moral code that simultaneously inspires acts of sternness and enormous generosity. His naturally taciturn character becomes even more so as his cancer advances, so that when his powerful emotions bubble to the surface the effect is even more impressive.

Haruf has created a memorable group of supporting characters to complement Dad and his immediate family—his daughter and his patient, loving wife of 55 years. The most distinctive is Reverend Rob Lyle, who’s been exiled to Holt from Denver after coming to the defense of a gay minister. His compassion is matched only by a candor in his preaching that reveals a self-destructive streak. Alene Johnson, the middle-aged daughter of a Lewis family friend, mourns a long-ago affair with a married man that marked the melancholy end of her search for love. Alice, an 8-year-old who lives with her grandmother, the Lewises’ next-door neighbor, learns some early lessons about life and death from watching Dad’s decline. Bred in the harsh beauty of the rugged Colorado landscape, the lives of these characters possess an admirable stoic quality.

There’s no manufactured drama in this novel, and that’s of a piece with Haruf’s previous books. The mastery he displays in this simple, quiet story, and in all his fiction, lies in portraying what one character thinks of as “the little dramas, the routine moments,” what he calls the “precious ordinary.” That Haruf can bring those moments to life with such precision and beauty is ample reason to savor his work.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #1
A meditation on morality returns the author to the High Plains of Colorado, with diminishing returns for the reader. As the clich has it, Haruf caught lightning in a bottle with his breakthrough novel, Plainsong (2000), an exploration of moral ambiguity in the small community of Holt. With his third novel with a one-word title set in Holt, the narrative succumbs to melodrama and folksy wisdom as it details the death of the owner of the local hardware store, a crusty feller who has seen his own moral rigidity soften over the years, though not enough to accomplish a reconciliation with his estranged son, a boy who was "different" and needed to escape "from this little limited postage stamp view of things. You and this place both." Or so the dying man, known to all as "Dad" Lewis, imagines his son saying, as the possibility of the son's impending return before the father's inevitable death provides a pulse of narrative momentum. Other plotlines intertwine: A minister reassigned from Denver for mysterious reasons has trouble adjusting with his family to small-town Holt; an 8-year-old girl next door, who lost her mother to breast cancer, receives support from a neighboring mother and her adult daughter (single after a scandalous affair); Dad's own daughter has a boyfriend who isn't worthy of her. It's a novel that seems to suggest that it takes a village to raise a dysfunctional family, yet things somehow work themselves out. In a small town, "[n]othing goes on without people noticing," yet they often miss what the outsider minister poetically observes is "[t]he precious ordinary" of life in the community. Or perhaps life in general. The death of Dad has dignity and gravitas, but too much leading up to it seems like contrived plotline filler. Between one character's insistence that "[e]verything gets better" and another's belief that "[a]ll life is moving through some kind of unhappiness," the novel runs the gamut of homespun philosophizing. Even the epiphanies seem like reheated leftovers. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 October #1

Haruf made his name with the heartfelt Plainsong, a best seller and a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. The subsequent Eventide, also a best seller, revisited Plainsong's setting, high-plains Holt, CO. Haruf again returns to Holt but with a new cast, among them Dad Lewis, dying of cancer and comforted by his wife and daughter though still estranged from his son. Then there's the little girl mourning her mother and a new preacher struggling with both his family and his congregation. Bittersweet charm and a big, big tour.

[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #2

After the critical and popular success of Plainsong and its sequel, Eventide, Colorado native Haruf returns to his fictional town of Holt, on the high plains of eastern Colorado. As Dad Lewis, a central figure in the community, lies dying, he looks out from his bedroom window over the familiar wheat fields and pastures dotted with black cattle. His wife, Mary, is constantly by his side, and daughter Lorraine has left a lackluster romance in Denver to come help. Only the Lewises' relationship with their absent son, Frank, clouds Dad's blessed life. Numerous neighbors stop by to keep Dad's spirits up despite being burdened with their own cares. Rev. Lyle's heartwarming stories of people he's helped cover up a dark past. The Johnson women, mother Willa and daughter Alene, appear dull and unremarkable, but Alene hides an intense loneliness stemming from a passionate affair with a married man. As Dad's life slips away, these neighbors forge indelible bonds. VERDICT Haruf captures the sadness and hardship, the joys and triumphs behind the lives of ordinary people. Benediction has an understated Our Town quality that's all the more powerful in the hands of this master storyteller. This is exceptional fiction not to be missed. [See Prepub Alert, 9/10/12.]--Donna Bettencourt, Mesa County Libs., Grand Junction, CO

[Page 92]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #4

In Holt, the fictional Colorado town where all of Haruf's novels are set, longtime resident Dad Lewis is dying of cancer. Happily married (he calls his wife "his luck"), Dad spends his last weeks thinking over his life, particularly an incident that ended badly with a clerk in his store, and his relationship with his estranged son. As his wife and daughter care for him, life goes on: one of the Lewises' neighbors takes in her young granddaughter; an elderly woman and her middle-aged daughter visit with the Lewises, with each other, and with the new minister, whose wife and son are unhappy about his transfer to Holt from Denver. Haruf isn't interested in the trendy or urban; as he once said, he writes about "regular, ordinary, sort of elemental" characters, who speak simply and often don't speak much at all. "Regular and ordinary" can equate with dull. However, though this is a quiet book, it's not a boring one. Dad and his family and neighbors try, in small, believable ways, to make peace with those they live among, to understand a world that isn't the one in which they came of age. Separately and together, all the characters are trying to live--and in Dad's case, to die--with dignity, a struggle Haruf (Eventide) renders with delicacy and skill. Agent: Nancy Stauffer Cahoon, Nancy Stauffer Associates. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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