Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

23602562One recurring comment about Kent Haruf’s novels is that the total of his stories is more than the sum of their parts. The same can be said of his latest—and, sadly, last—novel. Our Souls at Night is once again set in Holt, Colorado, and tells the story of two neighbors: Addie Moore and Louis Waters. Both are advanced in age and widowed. One day, Addie asks Louis if he doesn’t want to spend the nights with her, so that they can keep each other company when life is at its loneliest. Louis is taken aback at first, but then agrees. They ignore the talk of the town and do indeed start spending the nights together talking and getting to know each other more intimately while laying bare their secrets.

Louis’s marriage was marred by an affair he had had as a young man, and Addie had to deal with the early death of one of her two children. Their lives—and those of the people around them—have been shaped by these two events. Slowly, it becomes clear how the two feel about them, what they have learned from them, and how they look back at them. There is regret and also resignation. But at the same time, there’s also hope. The two have known each other superficially for many years, and now they have the chance to dig deeper. Over the course of the summer, they adopt a dog, take care of Addie’s grandson, and go camping. Their “adventures” are not ground-breaking, but they are relatable. It is sweet and heartwarming to read about them.

While Louis’s daughter quickly accepts her father’s actions, Addie’s son is much more outspoken about how he feels about his mother “having an affair with a man who is only after her money.” His behavior would have been quite funny, if he hadn’t been as hurtful. He has no qualms about judging his mother and forcing her to act how he sees fit. His actions made me think about how we, as young people, are quick to spurn the advice of our parents, but are often just as quick to judge our parents if they don’t behave in a way we regard as proper.

The book is made up mostly of dialogue between Addie and Louis, but it feels very natural and reads very easy. While the two talk, so much more is revealed about them than is being said. It is very skillfully done—as I would expect from Haruf. This is a quiet book, a bit melancholy, but wonderfully so. I enjoyed reading it.

The book is available starting today. I received a review copy from Knopf, the publisher.

 

Advertisements

8 comments

  1. I still haven’t read anything by Haruf, but I have Plainsong on my shelf. The idea of this one really appeals to me – I love reading about older people who maybe have been written off as being at the end of their lives, take control and show us otherwise. Even if it is just in these quiet, ordinary ways.

    • I think you would really enjoy this book, Naomi. Louis and Addie are perfectly portrayed. There were times when it felt like I was reading about my grandparents (well, not the parts where they invite their neighbors to spend the nights at their house). Very authentic.

  2. A beautiful review of what sounds like a very moving novel. I’d like to read this one at some point, although I’ll probably wait for the paperback (and I still have book three in the Plainsong trilogy to look forward to.) Haruf writes with such insight, compassion and empathy; his books have been a real discovery for me.

    Have you ever read anything by Wallace Stegner? If not, he might be of interest to you as he shares some similarities with Haruf. Crossing to Safety was one of my favourite reads from last year and Angle of Repose is very highly regarded too.

    • I haven’t yet read anything by Wallace Stegner, but after some of the reviews I’ve read of his work, I’d like to give him a try. I’ll have to check whether my library has Crossing to Safety or Angle of Repose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s