“Death is present in every [Kent] Haruf novel,” wrote Kevin Stevens in an essay/interview with the author in March 2013. “It can be unexpected, violent, ironic, even comic. But nowhere does it stare at us with such intensity as in Benediction. Dad’s situation gives Haruf’s familiar themes of loneliness and the failure of communication – between family members, between men and women – a white-hot context. ‘This is a story about love and regret and hope and loss,’ Haruf says, ‘about the death of an old sick man and the promise of life in a girl next door, a story within the circle of a family and their close friends, an isolated private circle. The story takes place almost exclusively in a house at the edge of town, at the edge of the open plain to the west: a not accidental setting.’
Kent Haruf died on the last day of November 2014. “Towards the end of his life,” his obituary in the Daily Telegraph related, “ [he] had been suffering from lung disease. Despite his declining health he still began each working day by reading something from the three authors he most admired – Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner or Anton Chekhov. ‘Right now, I don’t feel like death is right around the corner,’ he said in a final interview on November 24. ‘But if it is, it’s a bigger corner than I thought it was.’
Kent Haruf’s sixth novel, Our Souls at Night, will be published this year.