Last week my Zoom book club met and discussed “Our Souls At Night,” the 2015 last novel by Kent Haruf of eastern Colorado. While John Denver has made Colorado famous for its “rocky mountain high,” only the western half of the state has such peaks. The eastern half is part of the nation’s Great Plains, flat and agricultural. Here Haruf sets his five novels in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.
Haruf uses a spare style, appropriate for the straight talking inhabitants of our central states. His characters have lived in or near Holt their entire lives and farm or supply the services such as teaching needed in such a place. They live without pretension and with a settled, though not resigned, sense of their lives. In each of his novels something unexpected happens to jar them into a new purpose or connection with their neighbors. In this case, a widow makes a proposition to a widower to meet and talk each night. In bed. Just to talk. Needless to say this causes great concern in the town and in each of their families. It just isn’t done. But they do it.
Unbelievably to me, a book about an ordinary elderly man and woman in a small farming town has been made into a film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. I won’t watch it, not daring to ruin my own images of Addie and Louis formed as I read the novel. If you have managed to avoid the film, I highly recommend the book. If you have seen the film, I suggest you take a good look around until you find spot two unassuming neighbors. Imagine it’s them instead!