Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Review by Fay Jones
Knopf Publishing Group
With his new release, “Benediction,” best-selling author Kent Haruf delivers another poignant, elegant portrait of life in Holt, Colo. As the novel opens, Dad Lewis and his wife Mary learn that Dad’s cancer has worsened and that he may die within a month, as the summer comes to a close.
Their daughter Lorraine comes from Denver to care for them, and their long-time neighbors do what they can to help.
Berta May, who lives next door, introduces her granddaughter: 8-year-old Alice has just lost her mother to cancer, too, and has come to live with Berta May. Lorraine, who lost her own daughter, befriends young Alice. Alene, a lonely, middle-aged woman who’s come back to town and is living with her mother, Willa, also keeps special watch over Alice. All three women, too, create an allied force for the newcomer, Reverend Lyle, who has the other churchgoers on edge.
The strength of the various relationships among these characters could be subdued by a line or gesture, but we are not fooled. Mary’s intense love for her husband and her anguish over his illness is clearly understood.
Haruf renders the heart-breaking, gut-wrenching sadness of the situation so tenderly and so beautifully, showcasing the love the family members have for one another and the care their friends and neighbors offer them and one another. The moment of loss is so unbelievable, yet so inevitable and ordinary, that you can’t help but wish that you were a part of it all, that you’d feel blessed to be among such people. CV