Our souls at night

Addie Moore and Louis Waters are senior citizens, and neighbors on adjacent streets in the small town of Holt, Colorado, set against the flat and fruitful farm plains of central Colorado. Both have lost their spouses, and one evening Addie visits Louis to ask an unexpected question, "I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me. ... And talk." Louis is surprised more than shocked, but Addie is very clear, "I am talking about getting through the night." As she talks and explains, Louis worries about what people will say, but Addie has thought of all the logistics. Of course, in a small town, people do see, do comment by word or deed about these two, but pretty much leave them alone. However it is their own families who are the most bothersome, with Louis’ daughter as a special pain in the heart for her father. Then there is Addie’s six-year-old grandson, Jamie, dropped off by her son whose marriage is falling apart. Rather than being an obvious burden, the grandson creates joy and energy in forming a renewed family which is part of what Addie and Louis long for.

As these two people spend more time together, their histories are gently revealed. The past is made clear with all the disappointments, sadness, and unfulfilled hopes often thwarted by people and events. Eventually they do give in to family pressure to separate and not see each other, having been treated like two unruly teenagers. They are apart, but the distance does not prevent them from thinking about each other. When Addie slips, falls and breaks her hip, it seems as if the future of Addie and Louis is headed for misery, with her son forbidding Louis to see Addie, even in the hospital.  But it is their quiet determination, especially that of Addie who calls Louis to say, "I can't go on like this. It's worse than before we ever started."  The two of them plan for their present and their future, "As long as it lasts."

Haruf’s short novel is luminous in its spare, quiet prose, examining the human need for love, affirmation and connection, and the human factors, emotional stinginess and bitterness mixed with preconceived notions of right and wrong, which rage against those needs. Haruf captures all the isolation and emptiness of the countryside and some of the people who live there, and the fortunate haphazard connections that should not be missed by anyone. Along with Wallace Stegner, Norman MacLean, and Wright Morris, Kent Haruf was able to portray a part of the United States that still exists outside our large urban and suburban communities. This is a highly recommended book.