The Tie That Binds

Kent Haruf

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I love Kent Haruf. My introduction to him was through a book club selection of Plainsong, and I’ve been reading him ever sense. His prose is as clear and direct as the country he writes about, and this book is no different. It is a little different in its unrelenting sadness. At the heart of the story is Edna Goodnough, trapped in a life of unending toil, first for her manipulative, nearly insane father, then her brother, as she watches him descend into senility. Day by dogged day, year by year, she does what needs to be done, until one day she makes her break for freedom.

The story is told by a neighbor, young enough to be her son, and Kent Haruf uses him to display an unusual insight into human character. This book was a little a break from the others in that the main character finds little happiness until the end of her life. The characters surrounding her are grim, unforgiving, unloving people. We come to understand Edna and her dire situation as Haruf paints the picture of a woman who gives her life to the men who are unable to appreciate her and her sacrifice.

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