Don't get me wrong, Kent Haruf's Eventide, which takes up where his astounding Plainsong leaves off, is a wonderful book. It's just that it's so depressing. Or maybe a better word is bittersweet.
Haruf takes us back again to Holt, Colorado: a small town populated by people who have at least a passing acquaintance with pretty much everybody else. All the major characters from Plainsong are here: The brothers McPheron (one of whom comes as close as anybody to being the protagonist), Tom Guthrie, Maggie Jones, Victoria Robideaux, as well as a few new people who we didn't meet last time, or met only briefly. Also as before, Haruf explores a story that interweaves events in the lives of all the characters.
He gets off to what I thought was a rather uneven start, but everything changes dramatically at about a quarter of the way in. I don't want to say anymore about what happens; let's just say that Haruf is a brave writer.
These characters are so vivid I feel I know them. Haruf wisely keeps a couple of veteran characters out of the story until well into the book, since as we all know, real people come into and out of our lives with sometimes long breaks in between where there is no contact at all, even if we live in the same town. I like the way Haruf finds beauty and poetry in events while managing to create characters that seem absolutely realistic.
And that's the place I have to be with this book. I wished for a different ending, and a different middle for that matter, but that's not the way it is sometimes. The ending isn't sad really, though I don't mind sad endings at all. It's just so utterly, defiantly uncontrived and real that I closed the book wishing things could have worked out better. Yet even in the last paragraph, Haruf paints a sparse and beautiful picture.
I sincerely hope that Haruf will revisit Holt once more. I'd like to go back with him, and I suspect you will too.