Benediction by Kent Haruf is the third book in a series about the residents of Holt, a fictional town in Colorado. The novel lives up to the very high standard established by its predecessors, Plainsong and Eventide.
As with Haruf’s other novels, an atmosphere of quiet simplicity pervades Benediction. The language is simple and straightforward. The absence of quotation marks in the dialogue gives the impression of speech conducted in low keys and subdued, hushed tones. Haruf’s ability to depict true to life characters with simple language and little embellishment is truly amazing. We know these people. They are engaging and heart-warming. We recognize them as honest, generous, reliable, and genuine.
Different life stories weave their way in and out of the narrative. There is the eight-year-old orphan girl who recently lost her mother to cancer and now lives with her grandmother; the retired teacher who has moved back home to live with her mother; the gay son estranged from his family; the preacher whose sermon on love and forgiveness of one’s enemies incurs the wrath of many in his congregation. At the center of it all is Dad Lewis, an elderly man in the final stages of terminal cancer. Wrapped in a cocoon of love, tenderness, and support from his wife, daughter, neighbors, and employees, Dad Lewis reflects on his life and prepares for his death.
There is little action or conflict in the novel. So if you enjoy fast-moving, action-packed thrillers, Benediction is not for you. But if you enjoy reading the words of a consummate artist of “the precious ordinary,” a keen observer of human behavior who reveals the complexity of ordinary people in a prose style defined by its elegance and simplicity, then you will love what is yet another masterpiece by Kent Haruf.