Monday Evening Book Club November Selection

Our Souls at nightThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on November 13 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

About the book …

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters.
Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.
Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature. (From the publisher.)

About the author …

Alan Kent Haruf was an American novelist and author of six novels, all set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.

Life
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, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.

Works
All of Haruf’s novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado, a town based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf’s residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds(1984), received a Whiting 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. The New York Times‘ 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, at the age of 71, Kent Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado, of interstitial lung disease.

Our Souls at Night, his final work, was published posthumously in 2015 and received wide praise. Ron Charles of the Washington Postcalled it “a tender, carefully polished work that it seems like a blessing we had no right to expect.”

Recognition
1986 – Whiting Award for fiction
1999 – Finalist for the 1999 National Book Award for Plainsong
2005 – Colorado Book Award for Eventide
2005 – Finalist for the Book Sense Award for Eventide
2009 – Dos Passos Prize for Literature
2012 – Wallace Stegner Award
2014 – Folio Prize shortlist for Benediction

Kent Haruf : the complete final interview

A Wall Street Journal interview about the book (video)

Our Souls at Night discussion questions

A NY Times book review

A Guardian book review

A Los Angeles Times obituary

A UK Telegraph obituary

A Q&A with the book’s editor

Our Souls at Night movie

 

Seniors Book Club November Selection

Hillbilly ElegyThe Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 8 in the “Aquarium” Room to discuss the memoir Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

About the book…

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans.

The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.

J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. (From the publisher.)

About the author…

An author interview

Discussion questions

Video interviews

A New York Times book review

A salon.com book review

A New Republic book review

A New Yorker commentary

Poverty in the United States (Wikipedia)

Historical background about the Appalachian region

On J.D. Vance moving back to Ohio

J.D. Vance initiative “Our Ohio Renewal”