Get cozy with heartwarming ‘Our Souls at Night’

Looking for a heartwarming movie to enjoy on a cold, winter night? Get the popcorn ready and tune in to Netflix’s Our Souls at Night, based on the best-selling novel by the late Kent Haruf of Salida, or snuggle up with the actual novel for a bittersweet love story.

In the movie, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda star as Louis Waters and Addie Moore, two widowed neighbors who don’t know much about each other until Addie gives Louis a surprising proposal. After knocking on Louis’s front door and exchanging a few awkward pleasantries, Addie pops the question: Would he be interested in coming to her house to sleep with her at night?

And so begins a relationship that not even nosey friends or disapproving grown children can break up. Or can they?

The author’s wife, Cathy, believes the characters’ unconventional introduction is delightful. “I think it was terribly clever. It’s a great way to get into that story because it’s so surprising to everybody,” she said.

“When Robert Redford called and said he had read the manuscript and wanted to take the role, I said I wanted to be sure it would come out resembling the book,” Cathy said. Her husband had learned from previous experiences that stage and film versions are altered to please target audiences.

Before filming began in 2016, Cathy spent several days with Fonda, providing insight about Haruf and driving her around northeastern Colorado, including Yuma, to show her where Haruf had spent a decade teaching high school English and developing many of his characters before later moving to Illinois to teach university classes in creative writing.

In Our Souls at Night, the characters’ nighttime conversations bring them closer together and reveal the events of their lives. Their relationship grows while they enjoy each other’s company and help Addie’s young grandson find ways to deal with loneliness.

Haruf knew he was dying while writing Our Souls At Night and completed it in only six months before his death on Nov. 30, 2014. “Ideas for the book had been rattling around in his head for at least a year, so the characters were pretty fully developed by the time he started writing,” Cathy said. He sent a first draft to his publisher, saying “Here’s a little surprise for you,“ and the publisher hastily responded with a mockup of the book, including the book jacket, so Haruf could hold it his hands and feel what it would become.

“Kent told me that summer, ‘I’m going to write a story about us – two old people who talk all the time,’” Cathy laughs. “That was the set-up for the book. Kent’s favorite time of day was at night, when we’d lie in bed holding hands, talking about the day and our feelings. He was so easy to talk to. There was nothing we couldn’t talk about.”

Like the novel’s main characters, Cathy and Haruf were longtime acquaintances. They were schoolmates in Cañon City and moved on after graduation to pursue careers and raise families. They met again at their 30th high school reunion in 1991 and married in 1995. “Kent was a gentle, kind, thoughtful man, and people adored him,” Cathy said. “He was very modest and would never tell people he was a writer.”

In the novel, as in real life, Haruf couldn’t take the sting out of saying goodbye, but his tribute to a cherished relationship will live on in this novel and movie. “I’m a better person than I was before we got together. That’s your doing,” Louis tells Addie in the book.

And, “I just want to live simply and pay attention to what’s happy each day. And come sleep with you at night.”

Kent Haruf Writing Scholarship 
open for submissions

The 2017 Kent Haruf Memorial Writing Scholarship is open to junior and senior high school students in Chaffee and Fremont counties for excellence in fiction and creative nonfiction writing. Students must be previously unpublished writers to participate. Writers may apply in one of four areas: short story, novel excerpt/novella, creative nonfiction, and playwriting.

Sponsored by The Book Haven, Cathy Haruf and the Salida Council for the Arts, the scholarship honors the memory of the late Kent Haruf, beloved Salida resident and best-selling author of The Tie That BindsWhere You Once BelongedPlainsongEventideBenediction and Our Souls At Night.

Entries and registration for the scholarship will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2018, 11:59 p.m.  The short list of finalists will be announced Feb. 28, 2018.

Winning entries, finalists, their parents and their teachers will be honored at an awards banquet May 6, 2018. Winners will receive a cash prize of $750 presented by Cathy Haruf, the late author’s wife. The finalists will also participate in a writing workshop taught by a professional author.

For complete information, submission guidelines and entry forms, visit HonorKentHaruf.org/memorialscholarship. Applications and writing samples must be submitted through the website.

For additional information, contact Lisa Marvel at 719-539-9629 or TheBookHavensch@gmail.com.