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Friday, September 11, 2015

Old People Have Sex, Too

Okay now that I have your attention…let me tell you how much I loved Kent Haruf's latest and last book, Our Souls at Night (public library). This beautifully written short novel shimmered with its simplicity and grace. Neighbors find companionship and love in their later years in Haruf's fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Addie and Louis, both 70, have known each other casually for many years and their spouses have been dead for many more years, but they don't really know each other's stories.  The book opens as Addie knocks on Louis' door one evening and makes a proposition. She doesn't sleep well and yearns for a man next to her in bed, not for sex (she says she is long past that desire) but just to talk to as she goes to sleep. Louis mulls it over briefly but goes over to her home and her king-sized bed the next evening.  Their life stories unfold and their daily life becomes richer and fuller as told in Haruf's simple prose.  He was such a skillful writer that he manages to make the most ordinary tasks shine with beauty. I listened to this book and loved the narrator's voice. I teared up at times and felt tense when things got tough for Addie and Louis. The ending is tender and authentic, but I won't say more here. But let me assure you that the book is not about sex. But I do like stories about older couples with the wisdom of the years.

This book should prompt you to read more of Haruf, if you haven't already. He gets in a mention of his most popular novel, Plainsong, as Addie and Louis are considering going to see a play in Denver from a script written from Haruf's 2014 novel, Benediction (which really was made into a play and performed in Denver as the last of the Holt trilogy).  Louis said the story in Plainsong of two Holt farmers taking in a pregnant girl didn't ring true to him.  Addie replies, "People can do the unexpected." She goes on to say, "We're no more improbable than the story of two old cattle ranchers." And that is really the theme of the book: as my former minister at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church always said in his benediction, "Expect the unexpected - anticipate miracles - and know through God all things are possible." These two may not believe in God. They don't believe in church anyway. But both of them, through Addie's gentle guidance, grow to believe in grace and the small miracles that make up every day life. People can do the unexpected. It's a perfect last book, and Haruf's quiet voice will be sorely missed. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Avoid The Shore

 As those of you who read this blog know, it's rare that I meet a book I don't like. And I don't think I've ever given a book a negative review on this blog, but since I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, I need to give it an honest review. 

First let me say, that there are things to admire about The Shore by Sara Taylor. The characters are complex and the dialogue keeps the action moving along. It's ambitious book of interconnected stories with different voices in each chapter. Taylor has a knack for capturing a character's unique voice and period of time. The female characters are strongly portrayed. She has kindly printed a family tree of these two related families in the front of the book.  The setting of the small islands (The Shore) just off the Chesapeake Bay is a constant strong character threading through this debut novel.  So you can see, I appreciated this young writer's mastery of her skills. I was actually in awe of her talent, but the story was just too harsh for me. Normally (you can see other reviews where I demonstrate this), I appreciate novels that shine a light on a dim situation. I don't require a happy ending in my fiction. But this was just too desolate.  Many its all the bad news I've been hearing lately - murders, refugees, children suffering - but this book was just dismal. I need a glimmer of redemption in my novels. I found little here.  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.