Sunday, July 12, 2015

Kent Haruf's "Our Souls at Night"

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What does that title conjure up for you? Truth and beauty was what I thought when I saw this novel on the shelf. I'd always had Mr. Haruf on my "to read" list. His trilogy which began with "Plainsong" has been highly praised. I kept telling myself, "I'll get to him, I'll get to him." Alas, Mr. Haruf died last November, but not before finishing this masterpiece of depth within a deceptively simple 179 pages.
Known for his glorification of small town life, Mr. Haruf writes about the people of Holt, Colorado, their daily lives and worries, small and large. Reading him could almost make one long for those days when neighbors watched out for one another and doors were left unlocked at night. Sure, everyone knew your business and that could be an annoyance, but generally they wished you well. Or at least, that's what Addie and Louis discovered.
I can't imagine the courage it took for Addie Moore to take those first steps, two doors down to Louis Waters' house. Both widowed, Addie and Louis had probably been watching each other for a while. How could they not when their paths crossed all the time? But that May evening when Addie knocked on Louis's door and he invited her in, the proposition she offered must have come as a bit of a shock.
Addie didn't pull any punches, she didn't equivocate. She told Louis the truth, that she's lonely, that she misses the warm comfort of a body beside her in bed, that she longs to talk with another person at the end of the day. Might he be feeling a similar longing? Would he consider spending the nights with her?
I felt such joy as I read of their awkward beginnings, Louis traipsing up to the back door of Addie's house with his pajamas and toothbrush in a paper sack. Addie offering a pre-bedtime glass of wine to calm their nerves, their gradual relaxation into routine, the lingering conversations before each drifts off to sleep, had me sighing with contentment.
Oh yes, the neighbors whispered at first, but as Addie and Louis became more sure of themselves and began appearing in public for lunch or a stroll in the park, the towns people accepted them as a couple, allowing them to see themselves that way too. The only problem? Their children.
Haruf makes astute observations about the difficulties of blending families. Why  children think that they have any right to dictate the actions of their parents has always been beyond me. More to the point, why would a parent allow his child to quarterback his decision? Don't kids trust that their folks have enough love to spread around? Or is it the money? A false sense of morality, perhaps?
 As Addie's and Louis's new found sense of well being is tested by the interference of her son I found myself reflecting on the many senior couples I know who followed their hearts rather than their heads and hoping that the author would imbue his characters with that same joie de vivre. This lovely, spare novel is a must read, the author's final gift to the reading world.


Mij said...

His Plainsong trilogy, without a doubt, WAY up at the top of my all-time favorites! Cannot recommend them enough to you. My very very favorite--Plainsong.

Sallyb said...

I plan to read the trilogy this summer. It must be wonderful. Sorry that it's taken me so long to come to him. Thanks for the comment.