” They came up from the horse barn in the slanted light of early morning. The McPheron brothers, Harold and Raymond. Old men approaching an old house at the end of summer. They came on across the gravel drive past the pickup and the car parked at the hogwire fencing and came one after other through the wire gate. ” (Part I, Ch.1, p.3)
Eventide is the sequel to Plainsong. The novel returns to the high-plains town of Holt, Colorado, where the McPheron brothers have become the surrogate fathers to Victoria Roubideaux, who was kicked out of her house when she became pregnant over two years ago. The crusty old farmers have taken her in and now grown used to the presence of other new people in their lives. Eventide begins with Victoria leaving the old brothers to attend college in Fort Collins.
Living with his brother seventeen miles out south of Holt he had been alone since that day when they were teenage boys and they’d learned that their parents had been killed in the Chevrolet truck out on the oiled road east of Philips. But they had been alone together, and they had done all the work there was to do and eaten and talked and thought out things together, and at night they had gone up to bed at the same hour and in the mornings had risen at the same time and gone out once more to the day’s work, each one ever in the presence of the other, almost as if they were a long-suited married couple . . . (Part III, Ch.20, p.131)
An accident on the ranch claims Harold’s life, and leaves Raymond hospitalized. Raymond, who is inured to his brother’s company all his life, has to live on and find new adventures and friends to fill the void. At the hospital he strikes up a friendship with eleven-year-old DJ Kephart, who cares for his elderly, alcoholic grandfather with pneumonia. The reticent boy, too serious and responsible for his age, befriends the daughter of his neighbor, Mary Wells, who, eaten up by her failed marriage, slowly falls into pieces. Other than Harold’s death, which is one of the plot hinges, Haruf also introduces Luther and Betty Wallace, the disabled trailer couple who fails to protect their children from an abusive relative, Hoyt Raines (the only villain in the book who later gets into a tavern brawl with the boy and his grandfather). The social work of the Wallace case is attended by Rose Tyler, a middle-age woman who has been widowed for thirty years. She later shows Raymond McPheron new hope in face of tragedy. As all these lives in Holt intersect, their drama also unfold and come in full circle.
Eventide is a very quiet novel—almost too quiet. While the book captures that human frailty and resilience, showing how willingly ones perform act of goodwill. Haruf has not outdone himself compared to Plainsong. I understand the point he’s trying to convey: that people unrelated by blood are capable of forming families. The novel’s frame seems to exist solely to record the passing of time, as a series of peculiar circumstances transpire and demonstrate people’s goodheartedness. The moral picture it paints is too black-and-white, as there is no grey. I also wish he would update readers on Victoria’s relationship with her mother, as well as Tom Gutherie’s family.
300 pp. Vintage Contemporaries. Paper. [Read/
Skim/ Toss] [ Buy/Borrow]