Reading Plainsong immediately after Hunting and Gathering invites comparisons between the two: both novels begin with seemingly unconnected characters who, as the narrative progresses, become intimately intertwined in the lives of one another; both novels are unexpectedly hopeful, despite plot events that might suggest misery (in Plainsong: a seventeen year old pregnant, a depressed mother who cannot care for her two young boys, a delinquent youth who tortures the same young boys); both novels bring together exceptionally lonely people to suggest that loneliness can be overcome by reaching out to others.
Indeed loneliness and connections may very well be at the heart of Plainsong. And while there are certainly instances when reaching out fails (the two young boys go to visit an old woman on their paper route only to find she has died, alone in her apartment), the overall impression the novel gives is that people can form meaningful connections with one another simply by expressing interest, listening, and responding with care. Similarly, those characters who cannot listen to others or cannot recognize the integrity of the other, end up alone and pitied by the reader.
Taken together, the two novels insist that it is only through positive interpersonal connections that individuals are to find any happiness.