I finished this book weeks ago, but I delayed writing my review because I wasn’t sure what to say about it. I can’t rave; it didn’t capture me in that way. I can’t dismiss it or offer criticism; it is too good, too well written for either or those reactions. What it is, perhaps more than anything, is real. The writing is understated and powerfully descriptive, conveying the steady pace of life in the small fictional town of Holt, Colorado where the novel is set. The characters are skillfully depicted; each of them seemed like someone I know, or once knew—a pregnant teenager, a high school teacher, a pair of elderly farmers, two young brothers. Likewise, the setting is vivid and realistic.

Plainsong was a finalist for the National Book Award (NBA) and won other prestigious awards. Critics loved it. I tried to, but I kept wishing that something would happen. I was impatient. Each chapter follows one character, so that first you learn what is happening with the young girl, then the two little boys, then the teacher, and so on. It takes some time for the reader to see the threads coming together. But as the characters’ lives become more and more intertwined over the course of a year, we see a community growing together, a family being created. The story, then, is that of the quiet acts of bravery, kindness, and generosity of the characters, who each seek to connect to others.

There is something very lovely and powerful about this book. There is the truth that to truly connect with others, one must become vulnerable. One must show need, expose the self. There is also a profound sense that everything will be okay, that people’s capacity to love is abiding, and that everyone can find a home.