Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
Writers are taught economy: of sentence structure, of style. But only the better writers can tell a story such as this one with supreme economy. While I do have problems with this novella, it subtly grew on this reader, because Haruf knows how to charm—not by what he writes, but by what he doesn’t put on the page. Meaning, the reader is left to his/her own devices as how to interpret this very brief book. For example:
Addie Moore and Louis Waters decide to engage in certain intimacies (other than sex) in their twilight years. They live just down the street from one another, and their first challenge is to cope with small town gossip and judgment of their involvement in the Colorado town of Holt. Once they have family members and town residents at bay, another challenge creeps into view: Addie’s son, Gene, has a son, Jamie, and difficulties in Gene’s household bring Jamie to stay with Addie for the summer. The boy is a mess, largely because Gene has kept the boy at arm’s length. Louis takes an interest in the boy, playing the grandfather part fully, and the boy responds positively. This of course draws Louis and Addie closer together. But Gene intervenes to prove that blood is thicker than Louis and Addie’s neighborly friendliness. Haruf doesn’t tell you these things, and he only shows them in the most indirect manner, keeping the focus consistently on Addie and Louis.
However. While Haruf’s narrator in this third person story is largely invisible, or transparent, the author’s initial dialogue often has the taste of stale, unsalted popcorn. But as the story grows, Haruf’s characters and writing style come together, although in a rather cliched listing of events and people. Maybe this is why I’ve never been drawn to his famous works, Plainsong and Eventide.
My rating: 15 of 20 stars