I think I have an author crush. My first experience with Kent Haruf was a number of years ago when I picked up PLAINSONG, a simple and graceful story of discordant lives colliding and intersecting in the small prairie town of Holt, Colorado. He drew me in with his carefully crafted prose and did it in such a way that made beautiful writing seem effortless.

You should know that when I have a literary crush and a penchant for buying books, it’s all I can do to not scoop up all of the works I can by the object of my affection. Such was the case after reading PLAINSONG. I actually got to meet Mr. Haruf at a local book fair sometime back and picked up his two other novels and got all of them signed, PLAINSONG included. Yes, I was hearts all a flutter.

And while I am loyal to the end in my real life, in my literary world, I kinda play the field. Yeah, I get around. I get all enamored with so many different ones and they all just swirl around and come in and out of my life while so many are relegated to patiently wait in the wings and on the shelves, waiting for a chance with me. For what it’s worth, in my heart of hearts I know I will come back for them.

And this week I did just that with Haruf’s WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED. Let me say, after years of being away, he did not disappoint. Let me also say I am a sucker for a story of art imitating life that seems so real you feel like you are sitting just on the fringes of the action watching the events unfold in front of you.

WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED centers on Jack Burdette, an arrogant, impetuous hometown hero whose frequent missteps are brushed aside. But as he grows up under the microscope of small-town living, his life takes turns with effects that are both far-reaching and impossible to imagine. The book opens with Burdette returning to Holt (the same setting as PLAINSONG) after an eight-year absence. The Holt community is angry, resentful and wanting revenge. As a childhood friend and foil narrates the story, the events that take place after Burdette’s unexpected arrival result in a climax that was both shocking and frustrating… and totally believable.

I don’t want to tell too much of the story or give away any more details than just enough that would encourage someone to pick it up. WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED is very different from PLAINSONG and just as engaging. I loved this somber story and all its mess and complication, much the way real life can be. And I also liked that in the end, it was just a story. One that I could safely tuck back on the shelves, or better yet, pass on to another book lover that can appreciate a perfectly constructed, hauntingly told story.

Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 176