Author Topic: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online  (Read 5069 times)

Mkaren557

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #40 on: July 19, 2016, 10:36:25 AM »
The Book Club Online is the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone.  We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  Everyone is welcome.
July Book Club Online
Start date: July 18 Discussion Leader: Ella Gibbons 

Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf



Only 149 pages but not one of them wasted.  Haruf writes simply, beautifully, exploring human relationships; all the myriad emotions of life.  An original writer, I think it a wonderful book, best book I've read in a long time, and I want to discuss it with others, share and explore our own emotions.  Addie makes a proposal!

Join us, you'll be shocked at the first page, but do keep reading.

Read the entire book and then we will begin our discussion on July 18th.










Addie was used to walking alone in the dark; she had been doing everything alone for years.  She appears independent, self-sufficent, and unafraid.  In a small town, particularly before the last months, people generally feel more safe.  Partly because the crime rate is very low or because everyone is watching.  I grew up in Gardiner, Maine, pop.c 6000.  My mother used to say that before the four of us got home from school, she would have had a call from someone telling her what one or more of us had done.
So, it did not seem strange to me that she walked home  Or that he doesn't offer or insist.
     Yes , small towns are like Holt, Co.  People do mind each others business and tell everyone else.  They sometimes embellish or put their own spin on the story.  But somehow, as angry as you get once in a while, you get used to "living in a fish bowl" knowing, as Addie does, that  discovery is inevitable.  So you don't do something or you really begin not to care.  In this aspect, Addie and Louis are typical residents in a small town. 
      I have felt Addie's loneliness;  it just goes on.  She has friends that she does "things" with, and her neighbor Ruth and children who "live away" and don't pay much attention to her. A friend of mine tells the story of her mother when her father died:  Kathy was listing all of the activities her mother could still do and all the people she could call.  Her mother stopped her and said,"But I won't have anyone who thinks I'm special anymore."  All she could see was empty years without intimacy, touching, without talking in the dark.  The worst time for Addie is in bed in the dark:  she doesn't sleep she just feels.   My friend Mike says,"The decision to do nothing to change a painful situation, is still a decision."  She decides to act :  So, Addie, courageous Addie, walks a block and knocks on Louis door. 

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #41 on: July 19, 2016, 10:37:02 AM »
So, Ann, you also thought that about the manners involved. Possibly the reason that never occured to me is I don't see Louis AS a Knight as Jonathan so cleverly caught. Nothing is normal here, to me.

You mention Ruth. I can't understand what Ruth is doing in this story, how she advances it. So she is the only person who supports their clandestine "affair?"

Something here is not right but I can't figure it out.

So, if Addie hadn't made her suggestion, we wouldn't have a book of a different way of living out one's end years to discuss. 

Unless it's all in her mind. Is Gene all in her mind? So if not  maybe Gene's reaction is to something else, perhaps?

I tend to take people as they present themselves till I know better. Gets me into a lot of trouble. :)

And then, although she wants it kept secret, she wants them to talk on the phone at night.  Hmmmm, will it really be the same?


What a good question. First thought of course not. Second thought maybe that's all it ever has been? Third thought, what does SHE want? (Karen just answered that beautifully).  The bed thing still is strange, as Marcie said it's a skipped step.

Is Addie being honest with us?  How do we explain her?  This is the kind of book it's easier, far, to ask questions about than try to answer them.


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #42 on: July 19, 2016, 10:43:00 AM »
Karen, we were posting together! Thank you for that insight into small towns and your insight into the character of Addie.

 So you find her courageous, loved the part about But somehow, as angry as you get once in a while, you get used to "living in a fish bowl" knowing, as Addie does, that  discovery is inevitable.  So you don't do something or you really begin not to care.  In this aspect, Addie and Louis are typical residents in a small town. 

That's a great explanation!

"But I won't have anyone who thinks I'm special anymore."  All she could see was empty years without intimacy, touching, without talking in the dark.

And how does she end up?

I liked this:   My friend Mike says,"The decision to do nothing to change a painful situation, is still a decision."

So how do YOU personally see her at the end?  Tragic? What would WE have done in her situation? 

GENE seems to be an issue here, and we've not talked about him, either.


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #43 on: July 19, 2016, 10:46:30 AM »
And I'll just say one last thing: Addie doesn't seem to have much courage where Gene is concerned, does she? Note the exchanges between them.

Mkaren557

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #44 on: July 19, 2016, 11:46:09 AM »

       As disappointed as I was that Addie did not stand up to Gene, I understood that decision.  She knew her son to be a selfish and neglectful father whose marriage was crumbling, so he "dropped" his son on her and left.  She could see the emotional turmoil the grandson was in when he came to her, and she saw how changed during the summer.  So, when Gene threatened to cut her off from him unless she ended the relationship, she ended it.  Now, I am not going to bore you with the long story, but my daughter-in-law kept my granddaughters from me for two years.  I was devastated and decided to forget my pride and beg to be allowed to be a grandmother to the girls again.  I also decided I would do whatever she wanted me to so I could keep my granddaughters.  So I have great sympathy for Addie's situation and her choice.  I do not see her as lacking in courage, and in fact I think it took courage to break ties with a man she cared a great deal for.  I am still undecided about the phone call thing.  I need to think more about whether the suggestion to make secret phone calls is a selfish decision on her part and hurtful to Louis or a good idea for both of them.
       
     

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #45 on: July 19, 2016, 07:54:01 PM »
Yes, when you put it that way, I can see, too, how that took courage from Addie to end the relationship with somebody who brought her so much joy and  longed for closeness for the sake of the grandchild.  I am glad you are now able to see your grandchildren, too!

 I wish she had had that courage earlier in dealing with Gene, but it's easy to second guess somebody's situation when you are not there. I was kind of shocked actually when he said something about (I would have to look back) I don't know what I'm going to do about my business  and I think she said I don't have any money or much money. I need to go back and find it. I thought that perhaps they had had this conversation before, for her to have that reaction. I didn't mark in this book, intending to donate it  to the library when I finished but now I do need to go back and find some of this stuff.

Grandchildren are so important, if we're lucky to be around them.  I wonder which of us, forced to give up something that is described as lyrical as this relationship was, would choose Louis over a grandchild. I wonder what surety she has that Gene will keep to that bargain.

A part of me says she didn't have to start in the bed, she didn't have to do it this way that anybody could object to; they could have started in other ways and if so they might have continued as friends without Gene's or anybody else's objections. But she wants to live without caring what others think. And I don't want to blame her.


Isn't it ironic that she's being, at the last, condemned by the same thing she fought so bravely against? Public opinion.  Because that seems all that's motivating Gene, or what could be motivating him?

Seen in this light, I am thinking that she is not selfish at all wanting the phone call at night, poor thing, it's all she has left of those halcyon moments when she could wear her fancy dress at last. So THAT'S sad.

I wonder if there's a message there, and if so, what it is.

What do you all  think?

I'm still not sure what "our souls at night" means, either.

nlhome

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #46 on: July 20, 2016, 08:33:45 AM »
"Our souls at night" - maybe that time when we "bare our souls" to ourselves and when we want to share with someone close? There's "pillow talk" for some. I see in some relationships, one of my sons and his wife definitely, that bedtime is their time to share their days and their thoughts.  Right now, when he's many time zones away, he calls her before he turns in.

As for the book, in a way I'm sorry I read it. I worked with elders and saw many whose lives were limited  or controlled by their adult children, elders afraid that what little love or attention they got would be taken away if they didn't comply. It's a sad thing to be so vulnerable and be in a situation where that vulnerability is exploited by someone a person loves. I'm thinking it was mostly the financial situation that ruled Gene, and that kind of elder financial exploitation is hard to combat, when it's emotional blackmail rather than out-and-out taking. For me, that overwhelmed any deeper meaning.

At the end I was angry at the son, angry at Addie because she raised Gene to be so selfish, but  decided she was just as selfish so he had two such parents to learn from. I was sad mostly for the little boy. Louis was a good role model.

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #47 on: July 20, 2016, 09:43:52 AM »
Nlhome! What a great post! You must be a mind reader, I was just coming in to ask what we thought, how we felt about Addie at the end and about her relationship with Gene.

Parents and grown children! What causes this rift between them?  WHY is Gene acting this way? I was irritated at her for the way she acted around Gene, before he acted out, but I wonder if I shouldn't have been more compassionate. I mean IS the parent ALWAYS to blame for a child who grows up less than perfect?

Such a tragedy the whole family suffered and I wonder since Carl withdrew from the boy,  if she didn't try to overcompensate and perhaps Gene is  the result. In difficult children, is it always the parent to blame?

I am sorry to hear there's so much of this going around. Is there anything that a 70 year old can DO when this situation arises? Karen has talked about her own searing experience.

What can you DO at 70? Which takes the most courage?

I really liked your  I'm thinking it was mostly the financial situation that ruled Gene, and that kind of elder financial exploitation is hard to combat, when it's emotional blackmail rather than out-and-out taking. For me, that overwhelmed any deeper meaning.


That was a twist at the end wasn't it? The real Addie and Louis came out bit by bit and at the end.....I've been struggling all yesterday with the "meaning." What this is ABOUT?

One word. VERY hard to do. Ageing? Loneliness? Exploitation? Selfishness?  Who is the more selfish in this?

This: "Our souls at night" - maybe that time when we "bare our souls" to ourselves and when we want to share with someone close? There's "pillow talk" for some. I see in some relationships, one of my sons and his wife definitely, that bedtime is their time to share their days and their thoughts. I think has the title in hand. 

Marcie mentioned something like that, too: I don't think of "souls" in that way, it flummoxed me at first. 

She said in an intimate setting. They are baring their souls/inner selves and the quiet of night time seems to me to be symbolically a more vulnerable time than the day to do that.

I don't know. The last thing I want to do at night is talk about a crisis in my own life. Maybe it's healing if you talk to another person about stressful things, and they give reassurance or bolstering? But before sleep?  For me to even think about it keeps it going all night long in dreams. I definitely don't need that. I didn't realize that the brain works over the issues of the day while you sleep, I just read that. But I am not sure of the answer, maybe it IS better to talk about it before sleep. I need calm pleasant  amusement before I go to sleep.

Thank you for that wonderful post!!  So today's issue (or pick one of the 100 on the floor, is How do you feel about Addie at the end?

And....is there anything else she should or could have done as a solution to Gene's demands? What in your own personal experience COULD be done?

I have my own little grandson  here today through  Friday and we're off to the nearest town for a day at the movies, etc.  It's not a Gene situation (thank God) but his annual week at the farm, so I'll be back tonight. Addie has taken over my thoughts, and I look forward tonight to see your thoughts.






Annie

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #48 on: July 20, 2016, 10:56:25 AM »
)In the end, I think Addie did the right thing in calling Louis and asking him to continue their relationship by phone and again at night.  And he was open and glad to do it.  Their wonder filled summer had meant so much to both of them, why not continue their pillow talks even if by phone.  They were just two old lonely old folks who found a way to share their lives. They deserved the closeness they had found they needed. 
My son and his wife stay in touch when he is away, every night.  My husband and I also do that.  It's always been an important part of our lives.

Why was Ruth included here?  Maybe to show us what good neighbors Louis and Addie were.  Him taking care of Ruth's yard (winter and summer) and Addie making sure Ruth got to the grocery every week.  Remember how Louis included Jamie  in his yard work?  Teaching him how take care of a garden?  Setting a good example.  Somehow I got the feeling that Gene and his wife weren't going to do things like that.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

marcie

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #49 on: July 20, 2016, 11:26:30 AM »
I'm not sure that I see Addie as selfish. Things happen in many people's lives that can explain some of their actions. The death of Carl and Addie's daughter Connie deeply affected Carl, Addie and Gene. Connie died when she was 11 and Gene was 5. Gene and Connie were happily playing in the front yard and Gene was chasing her with a water hose when she was hit by a car.

"After Connie's death Carl wasn't himself. He seemed all right on the outside when he was with other people away from home and at his office but it changed him. ... He didn't pay as much attention to Gene after that and when he did it was often critical to correct him. Many times I talked to him about it and he said he would try to do better. But it was never the same and it affected Gene... I tried to make up for that but that didn't work either."

"We [Carl and Addie] stopped making love for a year after Connie's death... Then when he was interested again it wasn't much good. It was more just physical than anything loving and emotional. After a year or so we stopped altogether."

"Carl was sick off and on before he died... I took care of him... We had that long time of joined life, even if it wasn't good for either one of us. That was our history."

"Gene stayed closed up like his father. He got more so in high school, then he went off to college and we didn't see him even as much as we did before."

I can see why Addie wants her relationship with Louis. She values emotional closeness. I can see how Gene became closed up like his father and why he wants to control everything and everyone. And why he worries about what people will think about his mother's relationship with Louis. He does say that he thinks Louis is after his mom's money but I don't think that money is his motivation for wanting his mother to stop seeing Louis.

Mkaren557

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #50 on: July 20, 2016, 01:09:33 PM »
I have been rereading the passages that involve Gene trying to work up some empathy for him and its not working. I know his sister was killed with him watching and his father pushed him away - -all horrible things with long-lasting impact, but I am still not moved to take his side.  What do you think?  Is he at all a sympathetic character? 

Leah

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #51 on: July 20, 2016, 03:08:45 PM »
I read the opening line, and then I went back and read it several (really!) more times - out loud. After that, the first thing I noticed (and liked a lot for some reason that I don't have an explanation for) was the absence of quotation marks around the lines of dialogue. It did make it seem more like poetry than prose; and maybe it just gave it all a more universal feel - like they could be the words (or thoughts or sensations) of anyone, not just the protagonist - even belonging to any reader - even me. That gave me a sense of almost owning the story right from the beginning.

When I read the author bio on the book jacket, I experienced a sort of deflation when I read that he was no longer on the planet breathing the same air as the rest of us. I experienced it as LOSS!

Leah

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #52 on: July 20, 2016, 03:18:37 PM »
Gene strikes me as a totally traumatized fellow whose personality was partially freeze-dried by his 5 year old experience (for starters). I think fear is the root of all so-called negative emotions/feelings, and his character shows how it can and does morph into anger, suspicion, contempt, and even hate. But he also displays a palpable sense of vulnerability that is such a contrast to his brave, strong mother - who even (mostly) relinquished a relationship of great value to her, all the while giving the greatest consideration to her grandson. I feel pretty sure she provided the same to Gene, but it didn't have the same impact or something. Gene just seems very shut down and stuck. At first his behavior and words exasperated me, but we didn't get his complete story - this is Addie's story.

Leah

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #53 on: July 20, 2016, 03:33:17 PM »
Another thought: I like that Addie and Louis continue their phone conversations - it is kind of like a lifeline or a tether Connecting them to their geographically parallel lives, if you get my meaning.

JoanK

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #54 on: July 20, 2016, 05:37:47 PM »
". [Gene] does say that he thinks Louis is after his mom's money but I don't think that money is his motivation for wanting his mother to stop seeing Louis."

I see it another way. gene is someone who has never fully functioned as an adult, and has always run back to his mother for money and shelter when he was in trouble. he has come to think of her money as his money. now he sees a "rival" who can take that away from him. That is why I suggested that Louis might be able to bring Gene around if he signed a paper saying he would not accept any money from Addie.

I have seen this fear of their parent's being taken advantage of in other children of elders I have known. it is realistic: there are all sorts of "Senior scams". It can also be delfish if the child is counting on the parent's money, or afraid that they might have to support their patent.

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #55 on: July 20, 2016, 08:51:59 PM »
I don't know which is more illuminating, reading the book passages a second time or reading your posts again but it's all really a great experience.

Leah!!! Welcome, welcome! I had read but not participated in the last book club discussion and loved your posts and was sorry you were not here, and here you ARE!!

Ann, you make a very cogent point for Addie suggesting that she and Louis continue their phone calls at night. It might not be as good as what they had but at least as you say, "They were just two old lonely old folks who found a way to share their lives. They deserved the closeness they had found they needed."

Also I'm not 100 percent sure that Gene is going to stay in the area. If he takes his family elsewhere I am pretty sure that he won't be thinking of Addie, and she'll lose out on both of them, so talking to Louis is a good idea for several reasons.

I have yet to understand how Gene dictates to Addie. I mean I know why she puts up with it, but what makes him think he can do it?

Adult children. It must be a difficult thing for them to approach their parents with concern. Takes a lot of diplomacy. :) 


Why was Ruth included here?  Maybe to show us what good neighbors Louis and Addie were.  Him taking care of Ruth's yard (winter and summer) and Addie making sure Ruth got to the grocery every week.


Now there you have picked up on two things I had forgotten, Louis's taking care of the yard, lots of bonus points for him and Addie taking her shopping, ditto.  But Louis, Louis had an affair, and was sorrier for the mistress than his wife.  How can these two things be reconciled?


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #56 on: July 20, 2016, 08:59:36 PM »
Marcie,  you remind us that  Gene was the younger child. I don't know why I had thought he was the elder. What an awful thing that must have been, and that quote you gave reminds ME that Addie DID try to make it up to him and she sees that does not work. Fathers and sons. So poor little 5 year old Gene lacking a father's reassurance withdraws, himself.

But now why do you say this? I can see how Gene became closed up like his father and why he wants to control everything and everyone. And why he worries about what people will think about his mother's relationship with Louis.

Now this is quite interesting to me. Are you saying that an urge to control is based on....How would controlling his mother at this late stage make up for anything and why does he care what the neighbors think...he's not living in the area, is he? I forget where Gene lives.  He's unlikely to ever hear a rumor?  I am having a problem (1) liking Gene and (2) figuring him out.


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #57 on: July 20, 2016, 09:04:43 PM »
Karen, I agree: I have been rereading the passages that involve Gene trying to work up some empathy for him and its not working

Not for me either. :)

What do you think?  Is he at all a sympathetic character? 


For my part, no. What is there redeeming about him? He dumps his child (this might be seen as caring for the child's welfare), whines about his job (is he asking or hinting for money, how OLD is he?) harranges his mother about things none of his business tho I CAN see as a parent that he might be taken aback by his son in bed with this strange man and his mother. Surely there is some way to explain that, others do.


I mean it's not as if it's X rated or anything or why could Louis not come by in the day time  when the child is sleeping over? Who made that decision? I think SHE did? I think say what you will about not caring what people think, she did, didn't she? In the end she did for the greater good and I can understand if a child is involved. What kind of person threatens to keep his child from his own mother? I mean, really. No I don't see anything whatsoever sympathetic about him.

But that's just me. What do the rest of you think?

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #58 on: July 20, 2016, 09:10:28 PM »
Leah, oh I liked this on the lack of quotations!

like they could be the words (or thoughts or sensations) of anyone, not just the protagonist - even belonging to any reader - even me. That gave me a sense of almost owning the story right from the beginning.

I can't type so leaving them out of anything is my idea of super. I never noticed the effect it had on the reader!!!


When I read the author bio on the book jacket, I experienced a sort of deflation when I read that he was no longer on the planet breathing the same air as the rest of us. I experienced it as LOSS!

Yes when you think about it, apparently he knew he was in his last days and he struggled to finish...was it a chapter a day? Or a page? I can't recall. Gave him something to look forward to, that does give a different slant on it.

My grandmother who wrote a book did the same thing. It's motivating when your health is failing. Of course she was a lot older as well. But to ME knowing it's done under those circumstances makes it more...I dunno.

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #59 on: July 20, 2016, 09:26:08 PM »
Leah: I think fear is the root of all so-called negative emotions/feelings, and his character shows how it can and does morph into anger, suspicion, contempt, and even hate. But he also displays a palpable sense of vulnerability that is such a contrast to his brave, strong mother - who even (mostly) relinquished a relationship of great value to her, all the while giving the greatest consideration to her grandson. I feel pretty sure she provided the same to Gene, but it didn't have the same impact or something. Gene just seems very shut down and stuck. At first his behavior and words exasperated me, but we didn't get his complete story - this is Addie's story.

Now that was something. Fear?  What has Gene to fear? I can see him being afraid she's leave all her money to this new man as Joan K mentions next and it does happen. My goodness how many lawsuits from disaffected first families over fortunes left to the new spouse of any sex.  If it's not money, what can it be?

He wasn't close to his father, so why should he expect his mother at 70 to....is he jealous? I am struggling to see fear here. Does he seem realistic to you?

JoanK said way back there that  Louis  really only seemed real when we learned he had had an affair....She felt he was too passive in  the relationship to be a real person: first the perfect companion, then the perfect "grandfather" to the perfect grandson (who gets the perfect dog).

How do we all see Louis? Let's talk about Louis a minute. On the surface he looks almost too good to be true, she's definitely the dominant character here.  We've read the whole book, do you all see him as perfect? He LOOKS perfect by description (is it Addie's?) Is this part of the dreamlike atmosphere?

I don't. I don't see him as perfect at all. In so many little ways, and I DO think that "passive" is very astute. He seems very  passive, I agree with that. Of course he did have that affair, is that passive?  But he seems to become proactive with the little boy. Did HE have any children?

If we consider fear at the heart of all negative emotions, are they all afraid in this story?


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #60 on: July 20, 2016, 09:33:04 PM »
This was great, Joan K!

I see it another way. gene is someone who has never fully functioned as an adult, and has always run back to his mother for money and shelter when he was in trouble. he has come to think of her money as his money. now he sees a "rival" who can take that away from him. That is why I suggested that Louis might be able to bring Gene around if he signed a paper saying he would not accept any money from Addie.

I have seen this fear of their parent's being taken advantage of in other children of elders I have known. it is realistic: there are all sorts of "Senior scams". It can also be delfish if the child is counting on the parent's money, or afraid that they might have to support their patent.


There's the fear in Gene.  And this last part made perfect sense and makes Gene look even worse than he did to me. So he considers it (he's the last surviving child) HIS money. Louis might be, in Gene's eyes,  more crafty than we thought. If Gene is  counting on her money (what little she appears to have) then naturally he'd resent any interloper. So signing a quit claim or something (I don't know the legal terms) to her money or property  might change that, you're right. So really she's taking a risk even talking to him on the phone.

What a hopeless mess this halcyon tale has become. And a sad one. One feels Addie has a right to some happiness.   (Where IS Halcyon, I think she said she was traveling, I'd love to hear her thoughts on this one)...

It started out so hopefully! Are YOU, the reader, disappointed? Surprised?



ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #61 on: July 20, 2016, 09:36:46 PM »
And finally, here Leah has put her finger right on it, the thing I have been struggling with since the beginning:

this is Addie's story.

Who is telling us this story? Is this Addie's story or Addie's voice?  Who is the narrator? I think that's very important. If SHE is, then is  this "dreamlike" way of expressing some things that several of you have noticed, real? Is it possible that in her narration to us (if it IS her) she may be in her new found joy, exaggerating the pristine perfectness of it?


marcie

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #62 on: July 20, 2016, 10:00:26 PM »
I don't think that Gene is a sympathetic character. It's terrible that he threatens Addie with no contact at all with her grandson and further, tells the grandson about it (when Addie calls the boy during the day he says he'll get in trouble if he talks to her).

 I do think that this is a kind of control that Gene's exercising. Maybe his need to control started when his sister died while he was playfully chasing her. Maybe he learned it from his father whose main attention to him was to correct him. I don't think Gene's controlling ways are productive; probably the opposite. They don't solve anything. It seems like it's just something he feels compelled to do. His life is out of control now. His wife left him; his business is failing. Now his mother seems to be spontaneously taking up with a man and causing her neighbors to talk. It seems flighty to Gene and, perhaps, makes her seem less accessible to him. And he seems to wonder why would Louis form a relationship with Addie if not for her money? He has to stop it. I'm not sure it's to keep the money for himself. That might be a fear in the background but I think it's more of a compulsion to control his mother's (to him) unseemly behavior. Of course, it's not his business and he can't see her point of view at all. I agree with JoanK that he's immature and self-centered.

marcie

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #63 on: July 20, 2016, 10:28:35 PM »
I agree that the story is mostly Addie's, mainly because she initiates the relationship with Louis in the beginning and she has to make choices in relation to Gene's threats at the end.  I think that the narration is third person. For example, "The next day Louis went to the barber on Main Street and had his hair cut short and neat, a kind of buzz cut, and asked the barber if he still shaved people and the barber said he did, so he got a shave too." This is no one in particular talking. A third person.

But for a lot of the book, it seems to me as if there is no narrator. We're just hearing from Addie and Louis and the others in their own words (with no quotation marks).  It's as if we're right there with the characters and there is no intermediary between us, narrating the events.


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #64 on: July 21, 2016, 09:51:40 AM »
OH what good points, Marcie!

That does explain the controlling urge: Maybe he learned it from his father whose main attention to him was to correct him.

and

It seems like it's just something he feels compelled to do. His life is out of control now. His wife left him; his business is failing.

Well that makes perfect sense. If you can't control your own stuff at least you can make a stab at somebody elses? He says he doesn't want Jamie to be hurt. I guess like he was? And so does he hope to control his mother so she won't prefer Louis? Or turn away from the boy for Louis? He's not thinking as clearly as he might, perhaps.

It's hard to quote from some of your posts because the entire thing is valuable so one ends up quoting the entire thing again hahaha

And on the point of view narration: This is no one in particular talking. A third person.

But for a lot of the book, it seems to me as if there is no narrator. We're just hearing from Addie and Louis and the others in their own words (with no quotation marks).  It's as if we're right there with the characters and there is no intermediary between us, narrating the events.


What a great point. How the mechanics of the prose makes the reader feel included, as Leah said about the quotation marks: she felt  welcome.

That is so interesting, I'm trying to think of another book that does that.  The "in medias res" thing, starting right in the action of the piece without introduction, is supposed to do that, too. I haven't heard of this technique before, maybe it's his own invention? Super points!

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #65 on: July 21, 2016, 10:05:18 AM »
Today in addition to the 1001 talking points raised by our group which are still open, I'm interested in a couple more I'm puzzling over, one is the dog.

Why the plastic tube on the foot of the dog? Joan K mentioned that it was the only imperfect thing about the perfect dog. There does seem to be a lot of perfection going on. I won't go into two strangers in bed together at their age, the inevitable ...er...lack of perfection which is possible there...not talking about sex but other accoutrements of old age...all swept away...but  here's a dog with a plastic protective tube on its foot?  I can't picture it or what it might be for. Anybody figure that out? Have you ever seen a plastic tube on the foot of a dog which is removable?

I also thought the repetition of thoughts in this vein: Who would have thought at this time in our lives that we’d still have something like this. That it turns out we’re not finished with changes and excitements. And not all dried up in body and spirit” was an important theme.  It was repeated several times in different ways.

She is 70. How old is he? Do we know? This I'm not dead yet, kind of like the Monty Python "bring out your dead" sequence in  The Holy Grail, that feeling, who of us has not felt it? You feel (other than the inevitable accoutrements of aging) mentally about 30?  Not sure WHO that wrinkled person is in the mirror.

 You've still got "it," right? Whatever it is?  Of course going to the dentist where they call you "hon"  or "dear," and pat your shoulder is somewhat confusing, (they must need glasses, right?) I remember when Ella violently rejected being called "dear."

And you get on a subway and half the car gets up for you to sit down? And you look around for the old person? Or you're in a museum elevator with a bunch of Japanese tourists and there's such a long segue of "after you, Alphonse," as to who should go first off, with lots of bowing, the elevator doors close, making everybody laugh?

Or maybe you're flying back from Europe in a shuttle to your local regional airport, and the walkway comes up and there are three people  standing there with three wheelchairs and the steward doesn't know who they are for, (because the people who boarded with them are about as handicapped as a marathon runner, they took off down the aisle after being afforded early boarding) so he turns to YOU in the front seat and says is the wheelchair for YOU?

MOI? Who ran on to the plane like Usain Bolt? (or my version of same which may in fact not quite approximate him).

Still got "it," tho,  right? I've heard that one day "it's" not there. Addie is saying and Louis says somewhere too, and they say it more than once in other ways, that  they've both still got it. They (and we) are not finished with changes (good ones) and excitements. We're not dried up in body and spirit.

I'm still trying to think of the overarching theme here. There are many. This is not only one of them, to me, but perhaps one of the most important.

I'm not dead yet! Is there a theme more important than this one that YOU see? If so, what is it?


Mkaren557

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #66 on: July 21, 2016, 11:08:04 AM »
      I feel as if I have met Louis before.  As I read him, he is shy and probably an introvert.  He is disappointed with his life:  he betrayed his wife; he settled for a career as a small town high school teacher; he sees himself as a failure.  He is very cautious and openly admits he is not a risk-taker.  As I have said before, there are no secrets in a small town.  Your mistakes keep coming back to haunt you as Louis' betrayal of his wife does several times in the text.  I worked with teachers who always bought their beer out of town, rarely socialized with other teachers, and  said very little about themselves to the students.  They really don't want to call attention to themselves.  I picture Louis like this.  He sneaks to Addie's house through the back yard so no one will see him.  He can't believe it when Addie says she does not care about what other people think.  He does care.  Addie knows that sneak or hide, people will find out and they will gossip.  That is inevitable.
      I like Louis because passive or not, he is good to Addie and works hard to please her.  And, in spite of his admits that he doesn't really know much about kids, he is wonderful to or for Jamie.  By the way, he does stand up to his daughter, Holly.  I wonder if he will look back on losing (almost) Addie as another failure in his life.
     
 

Annie

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #67 on: July 21, 2016, 11:43:58 AM »
By my calculations,  Gene is around 44!  And still asks his mother to rescue him if he has to shut down his business.  Jamie is 6yrs old which makes Gene 38 when he was born.  Why hasn't he been saving money from his profits all these years.  Addie promises to help him as it seems she always has.  How many times has he failed before?  He proberly is afraid that Addie won't be helping him any more now that Louis is in her life.  Louis thinks Gene isn't really a salesman and maybe should try another way to make a living.  I remember him suggesting this to Addie. 
Remember when Addie tells about taking Gene to Denver for the entertainment of seeing plays and the visiting of museums, the culture of a big town just handed to him.  But when he seemed to lose interest, she started going alone.  And bought new clothing just to wear in Denver, never in Holt because she didn't want her friends to think that she was getting uppity.  Evidently,  Carl left her pretty well off.  And Gene knew it as he used his problems to get her pity.  This little family needed professional help when Connie was killed and no one thought to suggest it?  Must have happened back in the days when it wasn't thought a good idea to get some kind of therapy after such a horrific thing had happened to your family. 
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

Leah

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #68 on: July 21, 2016, 11:47:51 AM »
I see a parallel fear of abandonment in both Gene and his son.

Gene was not quite six years old at the time of his sister's death which he may have come to internalize as his fault; it seems entirely feasible that his father's subsequent criticisms and "corrections" of him might register with a young child as a withdrawal of his father's love and as a major abandonment, with the double whammy of possibly being perceived as responsible (read: guilty) of his sister' death. And those things leave scars that cannot always be seen.

His son has arrived at that same age (5 or 6) which may be triggering an "anniversary" reaction in Gene that is reawakening emotions similar to those he experienced at that age. The paradox is that Gene's son is feeling abandoned by both his parents at that same age and shows a lot fearfulness.

Maybe this will clarify what I am trying to get across.

(Story: When I was 14, my Dad said something to me that came right out of his 14 year old experience, and created a similar experience for me. Being a slow learner - and an even slower to forgive- I wrangled with it for 45 years before coming to terms with the effects it had on my sense of self not to mention the sense of betrayal and abandonment - additionally it limited my trust of other people. All in all, the effects reached far, wide, and deep in a life from a single incident. I am pretty sure this is more common than we often realize.)

Jonathan

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #69 on: July 21, 2016, 04:10:08 PM »
I'm following all your posts with the greatest interest. I find myself agreeing with everything that's said, except for the perception of a 'dreamlike' mood to the story. I'm struck by the shuddering reality of it all.

This is Addie's story. That, I believe is the ultimate reminder. But it's also a love story and so we must include Louis. A geriatric Romeo and Juliet. Gathering rosebuds in old age. Written sooner I believe the story could have made it into The Oxford Book of Aging.

What we get is the complicated lives of Louis Waters and Addie Moore. Gene is a decent guy - so are they all- but he's part of the baggage that Addie brings along into her new relationship with Louis, who would seem to have settled into a comfortable old age. But he brings his own baggage.

The choices that have to be made. Two is company. Three is a crowd. Having to choose between lover and six-year-old grandson, it's the lover who gets thrown out of her bed. I can't get over these two skinny-dipping seniors.

JoanK

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #70 on: July 21, 2016, 05:56:14 PM »
LEAH: how kind of you to see gene as wounded, rather than simply awful. In the end, it doesn't matter to Addie whether we blame Gene or not: she's tried to change him and failed, he's not going to change now, and she has to decide what is the best way to cope with him as he is.

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #71 on: July 22, 2016, 09:36:12 AM »
Karen said, I feel as if I have met Louis before.  As I read him, he is shy and probably an introvert.  He is disappointed with his life:  he betrayed his wife; he settled for a career as a small town high school teacher; he sees himself as a failure....I wonder if he will look back on losing (almost) Addie as another failure in his life.

I am glad to be looking at Louis, and I think that's him in a nutshell.  How do the rest of you feel about him? Karen feels she has met Louis before. I don't. This book is making ME challenge myself in a lot of ways I did not expect. Shall I be brave like Addie, myself, and say I really can't relate to any of the characters, except perhaps Addie's love for her grandchild?

I am just not in Addie's shoes and since I'm older than she is, what she's going thru I'm not going to experience at 70...people can't say oh just you wait..... Of course Haruf was 71?

I am questioning whether my own perceptions have influenced how I even see people.  In life and in literature. I don't know a Louis, why not?  I really don't like him, either. And I don't know why? How strange this is.

he is shy and probably an introvert.  He is disappointed with his life:  he betrayed his wife; he settled for a career as a small town high school teacher; he sees himself as a failure..

I am an introvert, too; nothing to dislike there.  I think it's this part: "he settled for a career as a small town high school teacher; he sees himself as a failure."

I think it's THAT part of his personality, so well examined here that makes me dislike him. He settled, wanted to be a poet, so he "settled as a small town high school teacher," a position which he could have turned into a Mr. Chips. Seize the day. Bloom where you are planted.  The Emperor's Club. Made a glorious difference in the world. But no. He sees himself as a failure. Even in his affair, another failure in his marriage coming from his OWN actions,  his PRIME worry is that he "failed his spirit or something.   So is life nothing more than perception? Keep on the sunny side? Think what he could have done with his life if he had just perceived it differently.

But he didn't and here he is, our Knight of the Soul.

Nope. I don't like him, I haven't met him, and if I had I would have kept on walking. Louis has suddenly taken on a set of new dimensions.  How do the rest of you see him? Redemption in his Third Age at last? Never too late?

  It's a rare thing that I read a work of fiction and begin to question oneself. And it's a great discussion that makes that happen.  Going to have to work on this a bit.

:}


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #72 on: July 22, 2016, 09:50:41 AM »
Ann, Why hasn't he been saving money from his profits all these years.  Addie promises to help him as it seems she always has.  How many times has he failed before?  He proberly is afraid that Addie won't be helping him any more now that Louis is in her life.  Louis thinks Gene isn't really a salesman and maybe should try another way to make a living

Yes I was struck by Gene's being a salesman, of all things. He must be a lot different around others than he is us, of course one sees that, too, in life.  Louis is probably right, too. I'm thinking you are right when you surmise that Carl may have left Addie well off.  It need not be a lot.

Gene seems to be paralleling Louis's life: he's not done well, his marriage is in shambles, he whines (sorry I know some of you hate that word) to his mother about it. Expecting what? He asks her what am I to do?

Being well enough off, Addie has reached out for what she needs in life. I don't see that either Addie nor Louis has done much thinking beyond the box and their own needs, quite frankly. Self centered. Is "selfish" always a pejorative thing?

 They appear in good health. 70 is the new 30, right? We're all supposed to be doing second careers and traveling and running marathons? They are unencumbered by financial stresses or health issues.  So ....why the narrow parameters? Write a book, Louis. Write poems at last, what's stopping you? Get OUT, Addie, and see the world.

DO something. I guess she thinks she has. Has she? Her goal is closeness and that will make her happy. Or what IS her goal?

I am not quite in tune with these two, I am sure it shows. :)

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #73 on: July 22, 2016, 10:13:18 AM »
I thought Leah, again, has put her finger on it and is totally right:



His son has arrived at that same age (5 or 6) which may be triggering an "anniversary" reaction in Gene that is reawakening emotions similar to those he experienced at that age. The paradox is that Gene's son is feeling abandoned by both his parents at that same age and shows a lot fearfulness.


Yes, we've all got battle scars, it was brave of you to articulate a personal one, and they may be different,  but we all have them. It's strange the times they come out, too. Different things resound with different people.

The unfortunate thing is that one then  finds oneself, despite one's best intentions and resolutions,  as a parent beginning to react or think anyway, nobody knows anybody's thoughts,  in the same way as  what was done to us,  because it's what you know, or thinking the same way in crisis: it's what you know. Unless one makes  a serious commitment to change that pattern and keep to it, history may (as it is in this story) repeat itself emotionally or physically. I think that takes a lot more bravery than talking in the night in a small town.

And this family has had real trauma in the death of Gene's sister. And I agree with Ann, counseling might have been helpful but I doubt any was done at that time.

But we all know there are a million small traumas to the spirit which over time might also do the same thing to a person. The baggage transmitted...just think of Oliver Cromwell. Think of the movie Wolf Hall. It's suggested there that Cromwell's brutal upbringing contributed to his own brutality of spirit (Mark Rylance who played him, said his heart was stone). How can somebody get out of that? Why was Addie's trying to make up to Gene his lack of a closeness with his father after his sister's death not help? Carl's lack as a father trying to reassure him, he was 5 for Pete's sake, Carl must have been another repressed person not to reassure that 5 year old child...

Perhaps both Addie and Louis now see their relationship (I thought the descriptions of their picnics were dreamlike, Jonathan, almost too perfect in their descriptions as they reflect this new found happiness at last ) as a chance, a final chance to get it right.

And those things leave scars that cannot always be seen.

And I think, life not being perfect, that everybody is dragging them. Do you all think that Addie and Louis HAVE finally found happiness or is this last twist in the story just
an  old pattern reemerging?


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #74 on: July 22, 2016, 10:27:04 AM »
Jonathan, What we get is the complicated lives of Louis Waters and Addie Moore. Gene is a decent guy - so are they all- but he's part of the baggage that Addie brings along into her new relationship with Louis, who would seem to have settled into a comfortable old age. But he brings his own baggage.

What to you are Gene's "decent" qualities. I agree about the baggage they all have.

. I'm struck by the shuddering reality of it all.

That's an interesting comment! To me it's not real at all....I don't know why.  I don't know what's "unreal" about it, but I don't think that having shown no ...what's the word...spunk before this in Louis's life (except for the escape in an extra marital affair which is not spunk, it's...what IS it?) or in Addie's....did Addie never get out of the house at all, I can't recall...that they can now find final  happiness  in this friendship. And they seemed to, in those lyrical picnics and even had the little child with them, but we knew that could not last, didn't we? It's not their child to raise.

So what's the message here? You can't find happiness, even in your old age, because of the results of the baggage you think you've thrown off? That's depressing. What COULD Addie have done? (It does seem to be all up to her, I've seen her in control since the beginning. Shame she couldn't exert that influence on Gene). ...She's given IN to Gene. And she has no guarantee he'll stay in town, that he'll stay married, that he'll not change his mind about the next thing she does he doesn't like. Maybe that's enough variables for her to deal with.

But they are finally trying, after all these years. Don't they deserve a chance, too?

Radioman

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #75 on: July 22, 2016, 10:28:59 AM »
I read this book several months ago and drew much delight from it.  Actually I read it in a day. My friend Bubble recommended it after reading a review in the Times.  It was a bittersweet story and one to which I could not relate because Bubble and I have recently become engaged, and the response from our respective families was overwhelmingly positive.
Polonius:  What do you read my lord?
Hamlet:    Words,  words,  words

ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #76 on: July 22, 2016, 10:31:49 AM »
Joan K says, it doesn't matter to Addie whether we blame Gene or not: she's tried to change him and failed, he's not going to change now, and she has to decide what is the best way to cope with him as he is.

What's that saying change what you can and...have the wisdom to know when you can't? But Addie has instigated the nightly phone calls. So here do we see her as a survivor? Coping bravely?

How do we see Addie at the end?

What a book to be so small!!


ginny

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #77 on: July 22, 2016, 11:08:52 AM »
Radiioman!! Welcome!  We were posting together.

MANY congratulations on your engagement!

I read this book several months ago and drew much delight from it.  Actually I read it in a day. My friend Bubble recommended it after reading a review in the Times.  It was a bittersweet story and one to which I could not relate because Bubble and I have recently become engaged, and the response from our respective families was overwhelmingly positive.

So you're actually living it, and you can't relate,  either. Had your families had the same reaction as Gene, what would you have done? What do you think of Louis?

MANY congratulations!

Mkaren557

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #78 on: July 22, 2016, 11:20:47 AM »
      I find these characters very realistic and I do see them all around me: a lonely old woman, a passive, self-defeated man, a spoiled adult-child, a hurting child.  We are jumping into the middle of each of their stories.  There is much we don't know about what came before or what happens for each of them in the future.  Even this is like real life: what we see when we encounter anyone is all we know.
      I do relate to these characters because I have them in my family. I have worked with them. They go to my church, live in my building, walk on streets near my house, and shop in the same grocery store as I do.  I confess that I do like Addie.  I am lonely a lot of the time.  Like Addie, I make plans to deal with that loneliness during the day, but in the dark, at night, I feel it the most.  She is doing something to try to beat this thing that is bringing her down. However, as much as I can see why they are the way they are, I don't want to be around any of them.  I personally do not want to cope with Louis' low self-esteem, Gene's anger, or Jamie's pain in my own life now. But they surround me.  They are not going to "buck up," "make lemonade," or "forget it."
     
     

     

so P bubble

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Re: Our Souls by Kent Haruf ~ July 18 ~ July Book Club Online
« Reply #79 on: July 22, 2016, 11:38:59 AM »
My view on Gene:  He is an insecure character and so has the need to control others - the easiest one being his mother. This especially because he needs the security of her money but also because he is afraid of losing her.  He knows that she cares for him but  he is jealous of her good relationship with Louis and what that could mean in the future. So he tries to act virtuous when he sees his mother "situation" as a bad example for Jamie.  Jamie might come to love Louis more than his dad and become critical of his own parents.

Aren't  the women always the stronger in life and they have to make those hard decisions?