Plainsong is a story of multiple abandonments and multiple helpers. Victoria, a 17 year old pregnant high school student is abandoned by her boyfriend and her mother and goes to her Home Economics teacher, Maggie Jones, who winds up arranging for her to live with two taciturn senior bachelor farmers, Harold and Raymond McPherson. Meanwhile a colleague of Maggie’s, Tom Guthrie and his two sons, Ike and Bobby, are abandoned by his wife. Tom is friends with the McPhersons and with Maggie. The two boys often visit the McPherson farm with their father. The boys also are befriended by an elderly woman, Mrs. Stearns, to whom they deliver the newspaper, and Mrs. Stearns teach the boys how to bake cookies.
While this story is rife with heartache and rejection, it also is fueled by kindness and support from unexpected places. It reminds me of Mr. Rogers' story about his mother telling him, “Freddie, when you’re in trouble look for the helpers.”
The helpers are available in life and even though the story is full of heartache and pain, it also is optimistic and positive about the goodness of people even in the face of abandonment by others.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf is one of my favorite novels and I recommend it often. It was made into a Hallmark movie in 2004 which is good, but not as good as the novel.
Articles about bibliotherapy appear on Markham's Behavioral Health most Mondays.