I am about halfway through Eventide by Kent Haruf, the sequel to Haruf's bestselling Plainsong (see February 9th). As was Plainsong, this is a very good book, of portrait of an eastern Colorado cattle town and its working class people.
In many ways, Eventide is about the pain of separation. As the novel opens, Victoria Roubideaux is preparing to move away from the McPherons’ ranch to attend college in Fort Collins. Harold and Raymond had taken her in back when she was three months pregnant and turned out of her home. Victoria and her daughter, Katie, now more than a year old, have come to occupy a central place in the McPherons’ lives. Running parallel to this narrative are several other stories of loss and separation. Betty and Luther Wallace, poor and ill equipped to raise their children, face losing them to foster care. Mary Wells is raising her two young girls alone, while her husband works in Alaska. DJ Kephart has lost his mother and has never known his father. And all of these characters face even greater losses to come. How they respond—with sadness, outrage, bitter anguish, or hard-won stoicism—reveals the full depth and range of human emotion. But Eventide tells of connection as well as separation, of community as well as loneliness, of compassion as well as cruelty. Of all the characters, Raymond McPheron may suffer the most devastating loss, but his spirit of self-effacing generosity survives, and he meets someone who offers him a happiness he has never before experienced.
In writing that is as moving as any in contemporary fiction today, Kent Haruf offers an unforgettable portrait not only of the small town of Holt, Colorado, and the fascinating people who live there but of the human condition itself, in all its brilliance and frailty.