Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Our Souls at Night’
‘Our Souls at Night’
179 pages, hardcover; $24
Knopf, May 2015
Kent Haruf returns to Holt County, Colorado, in his final work of fiction. The terrain he mined throughout his career in novels like “Plainsong” and “Eventide” here hosts a tender story of love and friendship between two widowed Holt residents.
As “Our Souls at Night” opens, Addie invites her neighbor, Louis, over to spend the night. Not for sex, she warns, but to help her through the lonely night by sleeping beside her. He obliges, and a sweet, simple friendship is formed. The small town gossips about them, but in their old age, the pair simply doesn’t care anymore about what the townsfolk think. Addie’s son’s disapproval proves harder to shake off.
This spare and wise novel is the work of a writer who, in his final effort, distilled his craft to its essence and created something timeless in the process. Haruf, who died in November at 71, writes in unadorned prose that’s as stripped-bare as the need Addie and Louis feel for one another.
“It’s better than I had hoped for,” Addie tells Louis. “It’s a kind of mystery. I like the friendship of it. I like the time together. Being here in the dark night. The talking. Hearing you breathe next to me if I wake up.”
Through their mutual need for companionship, for having someone to wake up next to, Addie and Louis begin opening up about their lives, their dreams, who they were and who they became over a lifetime.
The novel includes a fishing trip to the Roaring Fork Valley and a brief playful self-referential chapter where Addie and Louis go to see a play based on a book by a writer who sounds a lot like Haruf (“He took the physical details from Holt, the place names of the streets and what the country looks like and the locations of things, but it’s not this town.”). It’s a welcome touch for fans saying goodbye to a Colorado literary legend in this bittersweet final chapter.
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Although travel restrictions are easing, this is still not the time to be winging one’s way to an international vineyard. Instead, for now, world wine experiences are best served either virtually, vicariously or simply inspired by what’s in a glass.