Once again, Kent Haruf (Eventide, Plainsong) takes readers to the small town of Holt, Colo., where ordinary people live with daily pain and sadness, grief and joy, underpinned by compassion and concern for each other.

The centerpiece of the novel is Dad Lewis, who's dying of lung cancer. His wife, Mary, is caring for him, along with his daughter, Lorraine, who has hurried home from Denver to keep the vigil. Lorraine's brother Frank is long estranged.

Dad's neighbor Berta May has just taken in her granddaughter, Alice, whose mother died of cancer. Lorraine, who lost her daughter at 16 in an accident, is drawn to Alice, inviting her to visit whenever she wants. But Alice is reminded of her mother when she sees Dad, and is thus reluctant to spend time with the Lewises.

The Johnson women, Willa and Alene, do all that they can to make life more pleasant for Dad and his family, as well as for Berta May and Alice. Their own stories form part of the warp and woof of the tapestry that is life in Holt.

Meanwhile, a new minister preaches about the Sermon on the Mount as if it should be taken seriously: turn the other cheek, love your enemies. The congregation bolts, calling him a terrorist for not hating the people with whom we are at war.

In trademark Haruf style, there is no high drama--just the playing out of life stories as they happen. The cadence and the tales are irresistible. The benediction here is that the reader is allowed to follow along. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

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