Friday Book Whimsy: Book Challenge, The Last

Today I will conclude the book challenge I have been pondering for the last few weeks. Click here to see Part I and Part II.

A book that reminds you of home: It sort of depends on what I consider home. For this purpose, however, I am calling home the place where I spent my formative years — Nebraska. Therefore, the book that most reminds me of my home is My Antonia, by Willa Cather. I, of course, am nothing like the main character — Antonia Shimerda. Her family are Bohemian immigrants who lived and farmed in southeast Nebraska in the late 1800s. She befriends Jim, who is newly arrived from the east coast. The reason this reminds me of growing up in Nebraska is because the people are down-to-earth, hard-working, honest, and live simple lives. That describes my experience growing up in the Midwest.

Favorite romance book: Can you really get more romantic than Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte? I mean, the wild and enormously troubled Mr. Rochester sees the good in the poor orphan girl who has led a tragic life up until she becomes a governess to Mr. Rochester’s child. the book apparently illustrates classism, sexism, and all sorts of -isms, but I simply adore the love between the two main characters, even after he loses his eyesight. Oh, and the crazy wife in the attic.

Favorite male character: Lots of favorite male characters, but I’m going to go with Father Tim, from Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I wish that Father Tim could be my spiritual advisor and my friend.

Favorite female character: I like many female characters, but one who has stayed in my mind is Eleanor Oliphant, from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. I loved everything about Eleanor Oliphant. I love her outlook on life, I loved how she rose above her dysfunctional upbringing, and I loved her friendship with Raymond. I reviewed the book here.

Your favorite writer: Man, this is a hard one to pin down, but given my answer to the last question which follows, I think it would have to be the late Kent Haruf. When this Colorado author passed away in 2014, I literally cried, knowing that there would never be another story about fictional Holt, Colorado. I own every one of his books, and since I’m a dedicated library enthusiast, that’s saying a lot.

Your favorite book of all time: That would have to be Plainsong. The story takes place in the fictional small town of Holt, on the eastern plains of Colorado. It introduces a group of people who are only marginally connected, but who come together as though they were a family. The dialogue is as true as in any book I have ever read. The writing is lyrical and spoke to my heart. The characters are realistic and likeable, though some are broken. The McPheron brothers — two old bachlors who are ranchers — are wonderful and true.  Eventide takes over where Plainsong leaves off.

Well, what do you think of all of my choices? What are your choices?

Friday Book Whimsy: Our Souls at Night

searchKent Haruf’s last book, Our Souls at Night, completed very shortly before he died and published in May, was one of the few books I’ve ever pre-ordered on Amazon. I simply had to own the book as soon as I could. But here’s the thing: I let the book sit in my library without reading it month after month, and for a simple reason. I could almost not bear reading the last words written by one of my favorite authors, knowing I would never be visiting the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, again. Well, except for the many times I will reread all of Haruf’s novels.

I read the book in one morning, and nearly in one sitting. That’s not an exceptional fact as the book is only 180-some pages long. I tried my best to read ever so slowly, savoring every word.

Our Souls at Night tells the story of septuagenarian Addie Moore, widowed for some time, who pays a visit late one evening to her equally-aged neighbor who had lost his wife years before as well. She has a proposal. Let’s sleep together. Not sex; just closeness and talking. The neighbor, Louis Waters, is understandably surprised. But upon taking it into consideration, he decides to give it a try.

What follows is a beautifully poignant story about love, friendship, aging, and family, and finally finding the meaning of life as they approach the end of life. As with all of Haruf’s novels, the story isn’t a driving factor. Instead, it’s about the characters and Haruf’s wonderful dialogue. As far as I’m concerned, there is no author better at capturing the way people really talk.

The story was joyful, but ultimately broke my heart, both because of the storyline (which I assure you doesn’t end tragically, just left a lump in my throat) and because it was the author’s swan song.

While Our Souls at Night can’t compare to his first novel, Plainsong, it was a wonderful final effort and a tremendous gift to his many fans.

I wish you could publish from heaven…..

Here is a link to the book.