Other finalists in the United We Read selection:
The Huntsman by Whitney Terrell
The boundaries of racial and sexual propriety are crossed with
a vengeance in Terrell's powerful, evocative debut novel, which tells
the story of a young black ex-con named Booker Short who calls in a
favor after getting out of prison and turns an entire town upside down
in the process. When Short
finishes doing time for his nebulous role in a dope-selling operation,
Mercury Chapman, the white man who was his grandfather's commander in
the service, sets Short up with a caretaker job in Kansas City. The
young man's rise through the ranks of Kansas City society accelerates
considerably when he begins a tumultuous affair with troubled, erratic
Clarissa Sayers, a white judge's daughter whom he meets on the job. When
Clarissa turns up murdered, Short becomes the most likely suspect, but
he goes underground until a final meeting between Chapman, Short and
Sayers reveals the volatile wartime source of Chapman's old debt and
exposes the explosive scandal in an ending that is both surprising
One O'Clock Jump by Lise McClendon
Dorie has come to Kansas City to work for a friend,
Great War veteran Amos Haddam, and forget the Depression and her own
cloudy past. Dorie is hired by local gangster, Georgie Terraciano, to
follow his girlfriend, Iris Jackson. Left on her own to solve the case
after Amos lands in the hospital with old war wounds, Dorie watches,
helpless, as Iris takes a dive off a bridge over the Missouri. The
investigation isn't closed, however, as Dorie's search takes her
into the jazz district, packinghouses and
mansions of Kansas City's wealthy. This case is far from over and it
seems to involve everyone Dorie knows.
If you liked Plainsong, you might enjoy these:
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
John Grady Cole and two companions leave their Texas homes after the death of
his grandfather to strike out into Mexico in a quest to find themselves; both
Hemingway and Faulkner provide inspiration for this mythic tale that finally
triumphs on its own terms.
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Amy Goodrow, a shy 16-year-old, is pregnant, and she and her hard-working
single mom Isabelle together struggle to find their places amid the setting of a
small New England mill town.
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Miles Roby is the 42-year-old manager of the Empire Grill and a lifelong resident
of the failing New England town of Empire Falls. Readers have been enthralled by
Russo's story of Roby, his disintegrating family, and the town he's inhabited and
its many secrets. One of the most appealing novels of last year.
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
A deceptively simple series of coming-of-age stories involving Nick Adams; both
style and content are said to have influenced Haruf 's Plainsong.
Plains Song: For Female Voices by Wright Morris
The stories of several generations of women living on the Great Plains are told
with sensitivity and insight. The similarity of titles between this and Haruf's novel
Remember Me by Laura Hendrie
Rose Devonic has lived in Queduro, New Mexico for thirteen of her twenty-nine
years but has never felt a part of it. Here she tries to work out how to achieve
identity, belonging and love.
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
A pregnant young girl finds a home in the local Wal-Mart store, with an
unexpected and large cast of characters-including Sam Walton-raising
questions about the real meaning of home and family in this heartwarming read.
Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons
A child learns to cope with a troubled mother - "the Barnes woman with all the problems."
Her depressive withdrawals are like Ella Guthrie's, and generate some of the same problems.
The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
A collection that follows Hemingway's alter ego, Nick Adams, from childhood to adulthood.
Hemingway was a revelation to Haruf - "I was just stunned by the quality and the richness"
of his writing - and Haruf uses the older writer's trademark terse dialogue to great
advantage in Plainsong.
A Flatland Fable by Joe Coomer
"The land for miles around is a level spot." Relief provided by birth, death, fire,
and baseball. A little-known gem by a Texas author.
My Antonia by Willa Cather
When you've graduated from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Cather's novel is the first that
comes to mind when thinking about the prairies and how they shaped the lives of the
people who wound up living there. A classic.