My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

September 24, 2012 Book Club, Contemporary Fiction 14

Hello Bookworms! If you recall from an earlier post, I joined a second book club. This is my neighborhood’s book club and despite knowing it existed, I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 4 years and haven’t joined until now. I’ve got some mild social anxiety issues… So the idea of joining a room full of strangers scared me a little. I tend to clam up and then everyone thinks I’m bitchy… I’m not typically a shrew, I’m  just awkward.

Luckily, our neighborhood guru is awesome and hilarious- it’s almost impossible to say ‘no’ to that girl. So, when we ran into her at a mutual friend’s baby shower (and she started the conversation by complimenting my flowers) I decided to give the book club a shot. She’s also such a freaking trooper- she had her appendix out the day before book club and STILL showed up. God bless her wormy little heart!

What in heaven’s name was I worried about? I apparently live in the greatest neighborhood on the planet. I’d suspected as much, but now I’m sure. Not only do most of the houses look like they’re made out of gingerbread, but the people who live in them are sweethearts! Like gingerbread ladies with gumdrop buttons. I just took that comparison too far, and I don’t care! Huzzah!

This month’s book was Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I’d never heard of the book or the author before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

If you read this, you’ll learn how to tell if a cow is pregnant! (Anal palpation. You’re welcome.)

As far as the book goes, I liked it. It was set in rural Colorado and followed the lives of a select group of residents in a small farming community. We’ve got an unusual cast of characters: a clinically depressed mother of two, the two precocious boys she seeks escape from, her beleaguered high school history teaching husband, a pregnant teenager, a pair of middle aged bachelor farming brothers, a female school teacher with a heart of gold, and her Alzheimer’s ridden father. There are a few other less critical characters, but I think this description gives you a good idea of the sort of slice-of-small-town vibe the author was going for here.

I only have one complaint with this book. There are TWO instances of teen sex parties where a single female services more than one male. I don’t know what goes on in Colorado, but I think that’s a sufficiently unusual circumstance (at least I sincerely hope it is.) I can’t figure out why it had to make an appearance twice. I’m hoping it was just a literary device, otherwise I’d begin to worry that the author might be a touch pervy. Although, he DID take the high road in a scene with the town ne’er-do-wells tormenting little boys, so I shouldn’t have played the perv card. Sorry, Mr. Haruf… If you’re reading my blog, holy crap on a cracker! I’ve arrived.

So bookworms, are any of you involved in a book club? Tell us about it!

14 Responses to “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors: Plainsong by Kent Haruf”

  1. Meg

    “I’ve got some mild social anxiety issues… So the idea of joining a room full of strangers scared me a little. I tend to clam up and then everyone thinks I’m bitchy… I’m not typically a shrew, I’m just awkward.”

    You just explained why I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 5 years and have only just now met one of my neighbors! And she’s delightful! And doesn’t seem put off by my immense awkwardness!

    Also, I’ll be putting this one on my (way too long) list of books to read. Oh, but I already knew about the anal palpation business: the joys of growing up in an agricultural community, hehe.

    • wordsforworms

      You are the second person to tell me that you already knew about the anal palpation. I was not aware that was common knowledge, but it sounds like I’ve lived a terribly sheltered life!

  2. emily

    I long for the days when I have time to read consistently as to be able to join a book club! Currently, as close as I get is our monthly MOTS group where we are reading and discussing Sticky Faith. We read and discuss the chapter during the meeting.

    • wordsforworms

      I think being an amazing mom to preemie twins and a precocious 4 year old wins you a pass at regular reading. Once the boys get to sleeping through the night, though, I foresee your reading will increase exponentially :).

  3. Lyssapants

    It’s funny. I love reading, and I am always doing it, but I am a moody and stubborn reader. I have to be in the right mood in order to read a certain book, and as soon as someone tells me to read a certain book, it immediately becomes less fun.

    At any rate, you had me at anal palpation.

    • wordsforworms

      Ah so a book club wouldn’t really be your thing then? Too… conformist? I hope my blog doesn’t ruin anything for you. I should preface all my blogs with “this recommendation is in no way directed toward Lyssapants therefore she shan’t feel stifled.” Do you think that would help? 🙂

      • Lyssapants

        I think that would be awesome, yes.
        The only other alternative is that I get to comment in all caps something like: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME READ THIS AMAZING-SOUNDING BOOK RIGHT NOW! MAYBE I’LL READ IT NEXT WEEK INSTEAD.
        That is all.

        • wordsforworms

          That sounds fair. I won’t be offended by your caps-lock rants. I’ll know they’re born of latent anger at the American educational system, thus I won’t take them personally.

  4. Amanda Embry

    Well, I must admit the preg-check thing wasn’t new to me, either, but I grew up in cattle country.

    I think I’m going to have to hunt down this book.

    • Words for Worms

      I feel so sheltered to not have known how to check a cow for pregnancy… My high school didn’t have an FFA or 4H. Suburbs. Pfft. I think you’ll like this book, I thought it was beautiful!

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