Monday, 20 March 2017

Book Review: The tie that binds - K. Haruf

"I remember saying something innocent and foolish like "But it's not fair". And he said, "'Course it's not fair. There ain't none of it that's fair. Life ain't. And all our thinking it should be don't seem to make one single damn. You might as well know that now as later.".

Haruf has done it again: back in Holt, back to that countryside where hard work, sense of duty, friendship, neighborhood are the main values. And Haruf with his honest, smooth, hard writing style makes you fall in love all over again with Holt and the good people in this novel and hate the baddies.
This is the fifth book I read of Haruf's and Holt feels now a bit like home. I have one last novel of his to read - Where you once belonged - and part of me would like to read it immediately, part of me wants to wait and delay the pleasure I gather from reading Haruf's books.
The tie that binds is actually Haruf's first novel, written in 1984, before the probably more famous "Holt trilogy". And because I read his more recent novels first, I could tell it was an earlier writing as the style is more raw than in the Plainsong volumes. And yet you can recognise the important elements in all of Haruf's books: the farm work, the difficult family relationships, the despotic fathers, the sacrifices made in name of family and work, the friendship and good neighborhood that are probably deeper than blood.
The strong female figures also are a constant in his novels and in The tie that binds, Edith is a portrait of strength and solidity and trust. And she lives a life completely sacrificed in name of her role as a daughter and substitute mother, in the shadow of her horrible father and then her nut-job brother, working hard to keep them fed and well, despite everything going on around her. She sacrifices her personal life, her love life, her freedom, for a sense of duty to a family that doesn't really gives her anything back. And yet her "tie" to them, to her brother in particular, is so strong that she does feel "bind" to it. The other "tie" is between her and the narrating voice's father, that goes above and beyond words and worldly links and which then goes on over the years becoming a beautiful friendship between Edith and Sanders Roscoe, the son that could have been hers.
A really good, good book, the confirmation of my love for Kent Haruf's writing style and contents. A book which is tragic and sad and quite dark, and yet leaves with a sentiment of hope and good values.

Overall rating: 8.5    Plot: 8   Writing style: 9    Cover:  8

Title:The tie that binds
Author: Kent Haruf
Publisher: Picador Books
Pages: 272
Publication year: 1984

In his critically acclaimed first novel, Kent Haruf delivers the sweeping tale of eighty-year-old Edith Goodnough. Narrated by her neighbour, Edith's tragedies unfold: a tough childhood, a mother's death, a violence that leaves a father dependent on his children, forever enraged. She is a woman who sacrifices everything in the name of family - until she is forced to reclaim her freedom in one dramatic and unexpected gesture. Breathtaking and truthful, The Tie That Binds is a powerful tribute to the demands of rural life, and to the tenacity of the human spirit.

The Author:
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wasleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach.
Before becoming a writer, Haruf worked in a variety of places, including a chicken farm in Colorado,a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey, and colleges in Nebraska and Illinois. He lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.
All of Haruf's novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado. Holt is based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf's residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds (1984), received a Whiting Award and a special Hemingway Foundation PEN citation. 
Plainsong was published in 1999 and became a U.S. bestseller. Verlyn Klinkenborg called it "a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader."Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.
On November 30, 2014, Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado at the age of 71.He died of interstitial lung disease.

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