Sunday, June 21, 2015

Souls at Night

Kent Haruf wrote a series of novels about a small town in Colorado that he calls Holt.  Our Souls at Night, recently completed, is the last of these books. It is the last because Kent Haruf passed away shortly after finishing this story.  I read a review just last week of the short novel and in it the wife of Haruf is referred to as having said that he, Haruf, better not die before he finishes writing. Apparently he adhered to her demand.

I've enjoyed every one of the Holt novels.  Soft, easy to read, revealing human nature in a way that seems so spot on.

This novel may be the most beautiful one of all.  The only issue I have with it is that the end seems incomplete and I suspect that the author was dying faster than he could write.

The title, Our Souls at Night, has a double meaning.  On the surface it refers to what Addie Moore proposes to Louis Waters, a neighbor, one evening. They are both widowed and nearing or just over 70.  Moore walks two houses over to Waters' house and asks if he would consider spending the night with her--not for sexual intimacy--but to share the darkness, just talk, and dull the pain of loneliness.

He agrees and begins to visit several nights a week and then nearly every night. And there in bed they lie and speak of their children, their now dead partners, and their mistakes--exposing their souls at night.

There is more to the story than this. There is a son in a difficult marriage, a grandchild, and the gossip of a small town, but the story is really about these two exposed souls at night. A step below this surface, magnified by the real life dying of Haruf, is the metaphor of night as last stage of life.  Addie and Moore in the evening of their lives.  At the end what do we reveal about our soul.

It really is a beautiful book.

The end is disappointing because the story takes a twist and you have the sense that he just did not have the energy to resolve that twist as he would have liked.

You don't have to be a big reader to enjoy this book.  Short, simply written and touching.  Highly recommended.  You don't have to be familiar with the previous Holt books to enjoy this one either.  In the other ones, the author brings back characters from prior stories. Not this time. There is only one page that refers to something that readers of his novels will get, but it is not central to this story.

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