Thursday, September 21, 2023

Need a Benediction?


New Kent Haruf novel sucks you in

By Emily Gatlin

A benediction marks the end of a church service, and in the case of Kent Haruf’s new novel Benediction, it means the end of a life.

Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer and his wife Mary does her best to make his last days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter Lorraine moves home from Denver to spend time with her dying father, and their son Frank does not. Next door, young Alice moves in with her grandmother after the death of her mother, and Alice spends time with the Lewis family which seems to bring life back into the Lewis home.

Reading Benediction is a truly cathartic experience and somehow manages to bring hope to the reader. Like Faulkner, Haruf sucks you in with his own lack of quotation marks, so you really can digest the sentences in a solid sweep. I was able to read the entire book on a quiet Sunday afternoon and felt every breath of sadness and hope from the characters.

For me, this book was put in my hands at the perfect time. I needed my own benediction after a whirlwind few months. It somehow made me feel better about my own situation and to me, that is what makes a stunning novel.

emilygatlinEmily Gatlin spent four years as the manager of an independent bookstore in Mississippi. In 2012, she was nominated to serve on the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Board of Directors. She is a contributor for, the Food & Drink writer for, and also writes for Invitation Oxford and Mud & Magnolias Magazine.