Set in the plains of Colorado from the early 1900s to 1977, Kent Haruf’s The Tie that Binds is a beautiful story of real life, real people, and real meaning imparted by genuine relationships. Sanders Roscoe drives a Denver newspaper reporter away from his door in fury, but he welcomes the reader into his home where he tells an enthralling story of life on the American Plains—in particular, he tells of a woman called Edith who lies in hospital bed, charged unexpectedly with murder.
Sandy’s father knew Edith’s family when they first arrived in the plains. His Indian grandmother helped deliver Edith when she was born, and there’s a wonderful sense of history to the depiction of Indian lands brought under the plough and tamed. Edith’s father despises the half-caste neighbor boy, but years of working the same tracts of land tie families and lives together, even while a sense of duty threatens those precious ties.
Daughter of a cruelly unthinking man, sister of an oddly unthinking brother, and childless neighbor who loves children, Edith is dry and sandy as the soil, unyielding as the plough, and solidly determined as the trees that break the ever-blowing wind. Heroes are wounded people rising above their losses, forgiving each other, trusting, and building ties as land and nature bind them. As Sanders tells Edith’s tale it soon becomes clear both he and she, for all their imperfections, are heroes of a kind.
Wonderfully evocative, unflinchingly honest, with self-deprecating humor and truly redeeming affection, The Tie that Binds binds the reader to these characters and the land, leaving a feeling that we’ve really been there, known these people, and really care what might happen in the end.
Disclosure: A generous friend loaned me this book.