Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that highlights a book that we can't wait to be published. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
I have read all of Kent Haruf's novels and was so saddened to learn of his death last November. While I didn't love Benediction (his most recent book), I have always held out hope for another brilliant novel like Plainsong and Eventide. The characters from those two poignant books have remained with me since the day I finished the last page of each story. Now I have another chance to re-visit Holt County, Colorado.
From The Atlantic:
Kent Haruf died last fall, at the age of 71, shortly after finishing a novel in which he slyly, and triumphantly, succeeds in having the last word. Our Souls at Night gives Haruf fans a lovely dose of his signature spare style and plainspoken characters. At the same time, it delivers a retort to critics who yawned that Haruf was stuck in his homespun ways. The 70-something protagonists of his sixth novel—set, like its predecessors, in the fictional small town of Holt, Colorado—hook up more boldly than most online daters would dare to.
“And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.” With that old-fashioned first sentence, a match is in the making. The lonely widow has arrived with a startling proposal for the widower down the street, whom she barely knows: Will he come to her house sometimes and sleep with her? Addie has in mind companionable talk, she explains, rather than sex. Help “getting through the night” is her hope. The visits start, and their lives become intimately enmeshed. Their fretful children and the townsfolk quickly let them know they disapprove: news, and unease, spreads more efficiently in Holt than on Facebook.
If the premise sounds improbable—two oldsters jumping into bed like that—so did the plot pivot in Haruf’s breakout best seller, Plainsong: two aging bachelor farmers deciding to take in a pregnant teenager. But Haruf once again banishes doubts. Our souls, as Addie and Louis know, can surprise us. Beneath the surface of reticent lives—and of Haruf’s calm prose—they prove unexpectedly brave.
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973.
Before becoming a writer, Haruf worked in a variety of places, including a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey, and colleges in Nebraska and Illinois. He lived with his wife, Kathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.
All of Haruf's novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado. Holt is based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf's residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds (1984), received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation. Where You Once Belonged followed in 1990. A number of his short stories have appeared in literary magazines.
Plainsong was published in 1999 and became a U.S. bestseller. Verlyn Klinkenborg called it "a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader." Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.
Eventide, a sequel to Plainsong, was published in 2004. Library Journal described the writing as "honest storytelling that is compelling and rings true." Jonathan Miles saw it as a "repeat performance" and "too goodhearted."
On November 30, 2014, Kent Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado at the age of 71. He died of interstitial lung disease.