Benediction – Kent Haruf

This is the last book I had left to read from my Denver book-haul, I bought two books by Haruf for two reasons, he is a Colorado writer and I have never heard of him before. I loved Our Souls at Night, so I had high hopes for this one as well.

I’ll use the back cover blurb because it summarizes the book perfectly.

Dad Lewis lost his estranged son to an argument, and now after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he knows he will soon lose his life. His wife and daughter work to make his final days comfortable, but subtle changes in their quiet community, like the arrival of a new preacher from Denver, have stirred up dormant memories. 

Supported by his wife and daughter, and surrounded by the community of friends and neighbors, all of whom are dealing with their own private challenges, Lewis approaches his fate with such reckoning that his story transcends being about death, and becomes instead a touching meditation on the connections, and separations that make a life. 

It is exactly like this… It is a meditation on dying and on those that will continue living. On the fact that one person dying does not stop everyone else’s world, even if we feel it should. It is slow, it is sad, but not crushingly so, there is no despair or desperation here, rather slow-burning sense of loss.

I must admit, I was not fully convinced after Our Souls at Night completely pulled me in and I read it in one sitting, I struggled a bit with this book. I could not fully engage with the characters, even though each of them is a fully fleshed individual. This book is the last part of a trilogy and possibly my reaction was affected by me not reading the other two parts.

Haruf writes about memory, loss and forgiveness, about the way people come together and drift apart. How each person has to make some decisions in their life that will change its course, sometimes in a way we’ll regret. I probably shouldn’t compare the two books all the time, but I felt like Our Souls at Night was a celebration of life, appreciation of it in every form even the simplest one. This book feels a lot less hopeful, it is about endings and they are not good ones, not necessarily tragic ones either. It truly is a meditation and I simply was not in the mood for one.

I guess I’ll have to buy a third book by Haruf to make up my mind about his writing.

I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad.
I’m not feeling bad. I’m dying.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

2 thoughts on “Benediction – Kent Haruf

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