Nov 18, 2007

The Tie That Binds

by Kent Haruf

Holt, Colorado is the setting of The Tie That Binds, a dismal tale about a dysfunctional family of farmers. When the original homesteaders fail to make the farm thrive, their children inherit a bleak harsh life. The daughter Edith ends up taking on the brunt of responsibility, fulfilling her duty to her family, as unthankful as that was. In spite of the fact that I did not find the characters very likeable with their disagreeable dispositions and painful relationships, their faults make them very human and realistic. There was something admirable about their stoic nature in the face of challenges and bitter disappointments. I cannot imagine living such a grim, unrewarding life with an unforgiving family and came away from the book uncertain if I should condemn or could possible condole Edith's final actions that sealed the tragedy of this story.

It also made me think twice about my fantasies that rural life is mostly peaceful and rewarding. Haruf's portrait of life on the high plains shows a bitter struggle to make ends meet against cold winters and a faltering economy. It takes a strong will and spirit to continue against the odds, as Edith's family does in this book.

Rating: 3/5                    246 pages, 1984

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