During the weekend, I took a break from my current read to pick up this final slim book written by Kent Haruf, knowing it would be a gentle, soothing read that makes little demand of the reader.
Nights in Holt, Colorado
Like the Plainsong Trilogy, it takes place in the provincial town of Holt where all Haruf’s book were set. This time we meet neighbours Louis and Addie, who are both widowed, early 70’s, living alone, with Ruth, in her 80’s in the house between them.
They’re not close, but one morning Addie arrives on Louis’s doorstep with an unorthodox proposal to alleviate her insomnia. That he spend nights with her, in her bed. She thinks it might help and wonders if he has a similar issue.
I’ve made up my mind I’m not going to pay attention to what people think. I’ve done that too long – all my life. I’m not going to live that way anymore.
The novel this explores the development of this new relationship, that Addie has no wish to hide, and it’s repercussions, in that frank, open way Haruf has of confronting his characters with their often uncommunicative selves, forcing them out of their silences, of their set ways, for their own benefit.
Challenging the Quiet to Speak Up, Act Out
When Louis tells Addie he has thought of her, admiring her character, she responds:
Why would you say that?
Because of how you live. How you managed your life after Carl died. That was a hard time for you he said. That’s what I mean. I know what it was like for me after my wife died, and I could see that you were doing better than did. I admired that.
You never came over or made a point of saying anything, she said.
I didn’t want to seem intrusive.
You wouldn’t have. I was very lonely.
One would think at their age they ought to be free to indulge themselves a little, but this a parochial town and Addie’s intention is more of a challenge than she initially realises.
Daring to Be Free, At Their Age
When Louis’s daughter visits, her explains that it is a decision they’ve made to be free. She tells him he is acting like a teenager.
I never acted like this as a teenager. I never dared anything. I did what was supposed to do. You’ve done too much of that yourself, if I may say so.
There’s a reference in chapter 34 to his earlier novels, where Addie and Louis are discussing the upcoming theatrical season in which they are featuring the last book about Holt Country. The one with the old many dying and the preacher. They discuss the author’s imagination.
He took the physical details from Holt, the place names of the streets and what the country looks like and the location of things, but it’s not this town. And it’s not anybody in this town. All that’s made up. Did you know any old brothers like that? Did that happen here?
Not that I know of. Or ever heard of.
It’s all imagined, he said.
He could write a book about us. How would you like that?
It’s both life affirming and sad at the same time, we have a perspective that not everyone in the community shares, though Haruf seems to be telling his readership that ultimately, if we nurture and allow it, love always finds a way.
A perfect weekend read and fitting tribute to a much loved author.
Kent Haruf died in November 2014 at the age of seventy-one, just before this last book was published in 2015.
In 2017 it was made into a film starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.
Have you read this book or seen the film?
Further Reading/My Reviews
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Benediction by Kent Haruf
Eventide by Kent Haruf