Years ago, a poet friend exclaimed, “How did he do that?” after reading a short story by the late Andre Dubus. He didn’t quite see how those relatively few pages had built to such dramatic effect. I’ve had similar reactions after I’ve read novels by Kent Haruf.

Kent Haruf 1943-2014

Haruf’s fictional terrain was the Colorado high plains, a portion of “fly-over” America populated with hard-working souls who feel what all humans feel but are prone to keep most of their pains and struggles to themselves—especially the men. A male newcomer whose approach to life (and to his role as a minister) flies in the face of this cultural climate. Reverend Lyle’s collision with the small town’s status quo plays out as the reader follows the long, slow demise of quintessential straight-arrow “Dad” Lewis.

Like so many residents of fictional Holt, the town’s hardware store owner is haunted by loss and regret over what he might have done differently in his dealings with others. Topping Dad’s list is his estranged and missing gay son. Lyle and Dad both struggle mightily in their father-son relationships.

Alternate Cover Design

Benediction’s women may be less in control of their lives than their male counterparts, but at least they have each other (some of them), a difference made vividly apparent by a scene involving a swimming episode that I will not spoil. ­­

There are several such iconic moments in the book, little epiphanies that make you want to keep reading, and make you realize you’re feeling the effect of real close-to-the-bone writing.

Thanks for reading this post. If you like it, I hope you’ll follow me at and on Facebook Page, Open Admissions.

Mortal Things, my novel, will be published October 4, and if you’d like to pre-order it, you can do it on the website or at Tree of Life.