Where You Once Belonged [NOOK Book]


The red Cadillac pulled down Main Street and sat by the tavern for hours, unnoticed. Then Ralph Bird of the Men's Store recognized the driver as Jack Burdette and bolted to the sheriff's office. The prodigal son of Holt, Colorado, had returned--and he was far from welcome.

In Where You Once Belonged, acclaimed novelist Kent Haruf tells of a small-town hero who is dealt an enviable hand--and cheats with all of the cards. In prose as lean and ...
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Where You Once Belonged

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The red Cadillac pulled down Main Street and sat by the tavern for hours, unnoticed. Then Ralph Bird of the Men's Store recognized the driver as Jack Burdette and bolted to the sheriff's office. The prodigal son of Holt, Colorado, had returned--and he was far from welcome.

In Where You Once Belonged, acclaimed novelist Kent Haruf tells of a small-town hero who is dealt an enviable hand--and cheats with all of the cards. In prose as lean and supple as a spring switch, Haruf describes a high school football star who wins the heart of the loveliest girl in the county and the admiration of men twice his age. Fun-loving, independent, Burdette engages in the occasional prank. But when he turns into a man, his high jinks turn into crimes--with unspeakable consequences. Now, eight years later, Burdette has returned to commit his greatest trespass of all. And the  people of Holt may not be able to stop him. Deftly plotted, defiantly honest, Where You Once Belonged sings the song of a wounded prairie community in a narrative with the earmarks of a modern American classic.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Why is strapping, impulsive Jack Burdette, legendary bad boy and ex-football hero, promptly thrown into jail when he returns to Holt, Colo., after eight years on the run? The reader discovers the answer halfway through this deeply affecting novel. Earlier, we learn how Jack has abandoned his pregnant wife, two small sons, a girlfriend and piles of unpaid shopping-spree charges, but his sins against the town prove to be even more serious. The story is narrated by the editor-publisher of Holt's weekly newspaper; he is transformed from rueful, detached observer to tragic participant in the events, which inexorably unfold to a stunning climax. Haruf captures small-town people with a sharp humor and sympathy worthy of Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology . Not a word is wasted in his brooding drama, which conceals a tender love story in its bruised heart. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Setting dominates Haruf's brief, unhappy novel of stilted lives and desperate actions. Holt is a small wheat-farming community in rural Colorado, its people passive observers of life as if living it were for others. The flat, dusty land that surrounds the town engulfs it in a prison of calm. Narrator Pat Arbuckle, editor of the local newspaper, records the action but is himself unable to act. His counterpart, Jack Burdette, is pure motion. A former local football hero long used to being observed and having his way, he operates on instinct and nearly destroys the town, which is no match for his cunning and brute force. This is an effective second novel from the author of The Tie That Binds. Recommended.-- Joseph Levandoski, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
From the Publisher
"Taut and deadly. . . . A terse and beautifully wrought                 narration."  --Los Angeles Times

"A beautifully told parable--simple and stark and true." --Newsday

"Where You Once Belonged speaks with the authenticity of . . . Hemingway and Faulkner." --The Denver Post

"Haruf's brooding, pondering style translates into first-class writing." --Rocky Mountain News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307807854
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/9/2011
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 127,791
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Kent Haruf’s honors include a Whiting Foundation Award, a Stegner Award, a Frank Waters Award, and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation. His novel Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New Yorker Book Award. He lives with his wife, Cathy, in his native Colorado.


Though many readers know Kent Haruf as the author of 1999's acclaimed novel Plainsong, Haruf had already made an auspicious debut with The Tie That Binds in 1984. Where You Once Belonged followed in 1990. Some short stories appeared in literary magazines, but it was another nine years before Haruf surfaced again on the bookshelves.

Despite the long gestation period, Plainsong yielded rich returns. The story weaves together several characters: pregnant 17-year-old Victoria Roubideaux; the McPherons, an elderly pair of cattle rancher brothers who take Victoria in; Tom Guthrie and his two young sons, abandoned by their depressed mother; and a high school teacher who knows them all, Maggie Jones. Each chapter is titled for one of the characters, carrying the reader along with one or another as all of them intersect. Nominated for the National Book Award, Plainsong became a bestseller and was warmly reviewed. "It has the power to exalt the reader," the New York Times Book Review declared.

Plainsong, which derives its title from the unadorned vocal music often sung in Christian churches, is aptly named. The tale is simply told, the action moves slowly, and dialogue resides within the text, unframed by quotation marks. All of Haruf's novels are set in the High Plains community of Holt, in eastern Colorado -- a fictional town much like the ones Haruf grew up in. "In the Plains, things are stripped down to the essentials, and that seems to fit what [Plainsong] is about and that seemed to be an obvious setting for this story," he says in a publisher's interview. The rhythms of nature and simple work are a latticework underlying the author's stories. Like the landscape of the setting, the progression of Haruf's tales is subtle. He is a thoughtful, understated writer who writes with a restrained sympathy for his characters, even when they seem not to warrant much.

Haruf revisited some of Plainsong's characters in Eventide, continuing Victoria's story as she heads off to college and bringing both tragedy and renewal to the McPheron brothers. The theme of unconventional family units continues, as does the mixing of modern urban problems and simple rural life. An 11-year-old orphan cares for his grandfather; a mother of two copes with being abandoned by her husband; and a mentally disabled couple struggle to keep their family intact.

Like his later novels, The Tie That Binds and Where You Once Belonged feature Haruf's straightforward narrative style and rural setting. However, both have a sharper edge and more explosive content, dealing with hard crimes and focusing more on individual characters. Tie focuses on one woman's tragic life story of family sacrifice; Belonged tells about the crimes inflicted on the town of Holt by one of its former residents, an ex-football hero.

Haruf's stories end as openly as they begin; though well crafted and thoroughly imagined, they are not about tight plot construction or surprising twists. Instead, Haruf is more concerned with expressing emotional truths. "Our lives are generally pretty messy," Haruf told the Kansas City Star in a 2000 interview about Plainsong. "What I want to suggest at the end [of the book] is that at this point, at least this day and this point in their lives, all these people have found a place in a small community -- it may even be an extended family -- in which they can connect with other people and find solace and communion."

Good To Know

Over the years, Haruf has worked as at a variety of places, including: a chicken ranch in Colorado, the Royal Gorge in the Rocky Mountains, a construction site in Wyoming, the railroad tracks in southeastern Montana, a pest control company in Kansas, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, an orphanage in Montana, a surgery wing in a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, a country school in Colorado, and a college in Nebraska.

Haruf lives with his wife Cathy. Between them, the two have eight children from previous marriages. Haruf has three daughters.

Haruf taught at Southern Illinois University before the profits from Plainsong allowed him to retire and move back to Colorado.

Plainsong was made into a CBS TV movie in 2004. Rachel Griffiths starred as Maggie.

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    1. Hometown:
      South Central Mountains of Colorado
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 24, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pueblo, Colorado
    1. Education:
      B.A., Nebraska Wesleyan University, 1965; M.F.A., Iowa University (Writers' Workshop), 1973

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2006

    Great Read, but didn't like that ending!

    A very good read. Interesting characters with lots of memorable events, but I was so, so disappointed in that ending!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2014


    Common people, real life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Kent Haruf tells the story of a man who can¿t see beyond his own

    Kent Haruf tells the story of a man who can’t see beyond his own point of view, through the eyes of a friend who can’t help seeing too deeply into everyone else’s mind. And slowly the tangled links between the two become clear.

    Jack Burdette is back in Holt Colorado, and at first nobody even sees him. But when they do, nobody’s glad. Jack doesn’t even seem to know why he came back. The narrator, however, sees more than a fat man in a car, and tells the story of a boy growing up, childhood pranks, drinks and poker slowly turning to unintended hurts and deepest wounds.

    The story changes when Jack leaves town. A larger than life character, he leaves a hole much larger than life in the community. At this point the narrator begins to enter his tale. Permanent losses are paired with the incomplete and hope begins to grow. But don’t read this story for an upbeat ending. It’s a novel of middles and middling through, believing there’s hope when hope fails, and finding out if there’s really any place where you belong.

    In the end, the main character is neither the narrator nor the man in the car, but the town itself, wounded, growing and healing from the hurts its people inflict.

    Disclosure: I borrowed this book from a friend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2005

    Awesome Author..

    Where you once belonged is an interesting story. Jack Burdett (the main character) shows many different talents as well as emotions. He grew up with a rough life, but still managed to be a football star through high school, and earn a full ride scholarship. He didn't do so well in College, and ended up getting into trouble. He's a very unpredicatable character. Throughout the story he makes a numerous amount of choices, which did not lead to the best of choice for him, and ended up hurting him in the future. Kent Haruf did an excellent job describing the characters, and event throughout the entire story. He did so well that while I was reading, I actually stopped and thought about all the desccriptive words he used, and it inspired me as a writer.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 10, 2010

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    Posted January 15, 2015

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    Posted December 4, 2009

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    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted April 20, 2011

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