Dad Lewis, the main character in Kent Haruf’s new novel Benediction, is terminally ill and has accepted that his life is coming to an end. He also knows he has plenty of regrets about it, the biggest one being that he has not seen or spoken to his son Frank in years. Like Dad, Reverend Lyle also lives in the small town of Holt, Colorado—although he was recently relocated to the town when he ran into problems at his previous church in Denver. In Benediction both men try with varying degrees of success to make sense of their lives.
Dad is well respected in Holt and has run the local hardware store for years. He has always been very set in his feelings about right and wrong. On his death bed he thinks back to a former employee who he discovered was stealing from him. Dad made the man promise to leave Holt and refused his repeated requests to repay the stolen money over a period of time. This decision did not work out so well for Dad in the long run.
Reverend Lyle gives a sermon on forgiveness that causes most members of his church in Holt to walk out and two men in the town to beat him up later on. From the reaction of his wife and his son John Wesley it is obvious that he has received such adverse reactions to his sermons before.
In addition to Dad Lewis and Reverend Lyle, the book features a number of other prominent characters whose lives intersect throughout the course of the story. Benediction has a nice mix of dark and sweet moments and Dad is treated as a complicated man still able to rectify some things but unable to change others. Haruf’s spare, concise prose is a delight to read and makes a book thin on plot move along at a nice clip.