Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Kent Haruf  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: February 24, 1943 in Pueblo, Colorado

Died: November 30, 2014, Salida, Colorado

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Illinois Connection

Haruf lived in Murphysboro and retired from teaching at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Biographical and Professional Information

Before becoming a writer, Kent Haruf worked in many places, including a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin and as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey. From 1986 - 1991, he was an assistant professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska and an associate professor at Southern Illinois Universtiy in Carbondale, Illinois from 1991- 2000.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

ISBN: 0330393146

Picador. 2001

Set in Colorado in the 1980s, Plainsong tells the story of various Holt residents. There's teenager Victoria Roubideaux, pregnant and homeless, taken in by two ageing, shy and somewhat taciturn cattle-farming brothers -- and the changes wrought in all their lives as a result. Then there's high-school teacher and single-father, Tom Gutherie, who has two sons, Ike and Bobby, and a second chance at romance in the shape of colleague Maggie Jones. Filled with unforgettable characters, Plainsong is both convincing and compelling a glorious, eloquent waltz of a novel. 'Like all the best novels, Plainsong takes you into a world that is at once real and vividly imagined. Here is a poetry of landscape, a tender and passionate evocation of ordinary people in majestic country . . . written with a kind of compassion that makes it ultimately powerfully uplifting' Niall Williams 'With its gentle touch and simple, precise prose, Haruf's novel scores a direct hit on his readers' hearts. Plainsong is a perfectly formed, beautifully executed piece of writing that will stay with you long after you reluctantly put it down' Mariella Frostrup, Mail on SundayIn Holt, Colorado, Tom Guthrie is struggling to bring up his two young sons alone. In the same town, school girl Victoria Roubideaux finds herself pregnant and homeless. Whilst Tom's sons find their way forward without their mother, quiet and gentle Harold and Raymond McPheron agree to take Victoria in, unaware that their lives are about to change forever. A novel of haunting beauty, Plainsong explores the grace and hope of every human life and mankind's infinity capacity for love.

ISBN: 0330433725


One of the most beloved novels in recent years, Plainsong was a best-seller from coast to coast—and now Kent Haruf returns to the High Plains community of Holt, Colorado, with a story of even more masterful authority.

When the McPheron brothers see Victoria Roubideaux, the single mother they’d taken in, move from their ranch to begin college, an emptiness opens before them—and for many other townspeople it also promises to be a long, hard winter. A young boy living alone with his grandfather helps out a neighbor whose husband, off in Alaska, suddenly isn’t coming home, leaving her to raise their two daughters. At school the children of a disabled couple suffer indignities that their parents know all too well in their own lives, with only a social worker to look after them and a violent relative to endanger them further. But in a small town a great many people encounter one another frequently, often surprisingly, and destinies soon become entwined—for good and for ill—as they confront events that sorely test the limits of their resilience and means, with no refuge available except what their own character and that of others afford them.

Spring eventually does reach across the land, and how the people of Eventide get there makes for an engrossing, profoundly moving novel rich in the wisdom, humor, and humanity for which Kent Haruf is justly acclaimed.

Benediction by Kent Haruf (2013-02-26)

Knopf. 1835

Where You Once Belonged
ISBN: 033049046X

Picador. 2004

Heavy-built Jack Burdette is quite literally too big for his boots - and too big, certainly for the small-town attitudes of Holt, Colorado. But when he fails to make the grade as a college footballer, and takes a job with the local farmers' co-operative, it seems he has finally settled into the rhythm and routine of everyday life. Outward appearances can be deceptive, however, as Jack proves: returning from a weekend conference with a new wife in tow, then leaving her behind and skipping town with a bundle of other folk's money. Nearly a decade later, no one has forgiven or forgotten, and when Jack reappears, resentment runs high. Once again though, it is Jack whose presence - even more than his eight-year absence - proves the most devastating.

The Tie That Binds
ISBN: 0330490451

Picador. 2002

From the bestselling author of Eventide, The Tie That Binds is a powerfully eloquent tribute to the arduous demands of rural America, and of the tenacity of the human spirit.

Colorado, January 1977. Eighty-year-old Edith Goodnough lies in a hospital bed, IV taped to the back of her hand, police officer at her door. She is charged with murder. The clues: a sack of chicken feed slit with a knife, a milky-eyed dog tied outdoors one cold afternoon. The motives: the brutal business of farming and a family code of ethics as unforgiving as the winter prairie itself. Here, Kent Haruf delivers the sweeping tale of a woman of the American High Plains, as told by her neighbor, Sanders Roscoe. As Roscoe shares what he knows, Edith's tragedies unfold: a childhood of pre-dawn chores, a mother's death, a violence that leaves a father dependent on his children, forever enraged. Here is the story of a woman who sacrifices her happiness in the name of family--and then, in one gesture, reclaims her freedom.

West of Last Chance
ISBN: 0393065723

W. W. Norton & Company. 2008

Peter Brown’s haunting photographs of the high plains, interspersed with Kent Haruf’s narratives of the people who live there.

West of Last Chance is a unique collaboration between celebrated photographer Peter Brown and award-winning author Kent Haruf. The result is a profound visual/verbal dialogue of short prose pieces and large-format color images that brings to life this sometimes brutal and incredibly beautiful part of the country. Awarded the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for this project in 2005, the authors write: “Our interest in this part of the world is contemporary but also includes its history and a mix of stories that have passed down over the years, stories that resonate with the land in interesting ways.” It is an evocative work concerned with “moments that describe the beauty, power, tragedy, and cultural complexity of the place itself: the way the land has been used, the way people have lived on it, and the visual record that has been left behind.”

Our Souls at Night: A novel
ISBN: 1101875895

Knopf. 2015

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.


The Tie That Binds

  • Whiting Award for Fiction, 1986
  • Citation, Pen/Hemingway Foundation
  • Plainsong

  • Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award
  • Maria Thomas Award in Fiction
  • Finalist, National Book Award, 1999
  • Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • Finalist, The New Yorker Book Award
  • Where You Once Belonged

  • Finalist, Book Sense Award, 2005
  • Eventide

  • Colorado Book Award, 2005
  • Benediction

  • Shortlisted, Folio Prize, 2014
  • Other Awards