Rarely does a book introduce its key characters in a single exquisitely crafted opening. In twenty four words shared between two elegant sentences, Kent Haruf takes us straight to Addie and Louis on Cedar Street, Holt, Colorado. This sense of intimacy and immediacy characterises another short and quietly extraordinary tale from the master poet of all our everydays. I’ve explained before in this blog, how hard I find it to leave Holt after a visit with Haruf, and just how long I can stare at a map sure that if I look long and hard enough, I will conjure it. Although his final book, there is perhaps no better introduction to the extraordinary ordinariness of Holt, than Our Souls at Night.
In many of his books Haruf celebrates the ordinary. Here a widow and widower find time for one another through the realisation of how brief that time might be. The certainty of life’s end is the source of the courage that drives Addie to drop in on Louis one evening ‘just before full dark’. The joys and difficulties of their day by day relationship unfold as they come to know one another not through an anticipated future so much as in coming to an understanding of their past. Characteristically, Haruf examines that past and its occasional shocks in prose so melodic that the reader comes, in slowed motion, to recognise the inevitable aftershocks in a family, of the instant, tragic, accidental death of a child. All Haruf’s stories are at their core, about the necessity of human connection, of how we thrive amongst one another, escaping the desiccation of loneliness induced by isolation. This book broke and mended my heart by turns, ultimately leaving me with a bittersweet spring in my step, safe in the knowledge that however determinedly thwarted, we will always find routes to one another, no matter how late in the day.