Benediction by Kent Haruf

BenedictionBenediction revolves around the lives of the inhabitants of the small rural town of Holt, Colorado. Here Dad Lewis is dying and is being cared for by his wife Mary and daughter Lorraine. Other notable characters include their neighbour Berta May with her granddaughter Alice, mother and daughter Willa and Alene Johnson and Reverend Lyle, the town’s new and somewhat controversial pastor. The novel paints a portrait of these character’s lives both in their own right and in relation to the central character Dad Lewis.

Dad’s story is interesting as he reflects on his life both good and bad. While he has clearly done a lot of good for people and is well-respected by those around him he does have some substantial regrets and it is these regrets that seem to consume him in his dying hours. One of the most notable regrets is that of his estranged son, Frank, who left the family when he was just out of school in response to both the school and his father’s inability to accept his homosexuality. I know I was left hoping that Frank would somehow make it back to Holt to see his father before his death so that the two could make peace with each other. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens.

The book was beautifully written and the characters were incredibly vivid however it was lacking in a clear plot. It seemed to jump from story to story and I was never entirely sure where it was going. I was waiting for one of the characters to have a profound moment but it never did happen. I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone looking for a strong plot but for anyone happy to read about ‘the precious ordinary’ (as one character calls it) this book is excellent.