Kent Haruf is the author of five previous novels (and, with the photographer Peter Brown, West of Last Chance). His honors include a Whiting Foundation Writers' Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award, the Wallace Stegner Award, and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation; he was also a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New Yorker Book Award. He died in November 2014, at the age of seventy-one.
Setting dominates Haruf's brief, unhappy novel of stilted lives and desperate actions. Holt is a small wheat-farming community in rural Colorado, its people passive observers of life as if living it were for others. The flat, dusty land that surrounds the town engulfs it in a prison of calm. Narrator Pat Arbuckle, editor of the local newspaper, records the action but is himself unable to act. His counterpart, Jack Burdette, is pure motion. A former local football hero long used to being observed and having his way, he operates on instinct and nearly destroys the town, which is no match for his cunning and brute force. This is an effective second novel from the author of The Tie That Binds. Recommended.-- Joseph Levandoski, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Taut and deadly. . . . A terse and beautifully wrought narration. --Los Angeles Times
A beautifully told parable--simple and stark and true. --Newsday Where You Once Belonged speaks with the authenticity of . . . Hemingway and Faulkner. --The Denver Post Haruf's brooding, pondering style translates into first-class writing. --Rocky Mountain News
Why is strapping, impulsive Jack Burdette, legendary bad boy and ex-football hero, promptly thrown into jail when he returns to Holt, Colo., after eight years on the run? The reader discovers the answer halfway through this deeply affecting novel. Earlier, we learn how Jack has abandoned his pregnant wife, two small sons, a girlfriend and piles of unpaid shopping-spree charges, but his sins against the town prove to be even more serious. The story is narrated by the editor-publisher of Holt's weekly newspaper; he is transformed from rueful, detached observer to tragic participant in the events, which inexorably unfold to a stunning climax. Haruf captures small-town people with a sharp humor and sympathy worthy of Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology . Not a word is wasted in his brooding drama, which conceals a tender love story in its bruised heart. (Jan.)