Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Every once in a while, a book comes along that knocks me backward with its quiet power. Kent Haruf’s final novel, Our Souls at Night, is such a book: a story about ordinary people living simple lives, told in spare, melancholy, beautiful prose.

Addie Moore and Louis Waters, both elderly and widowed, live a block apart in a small Colorado town. They’ve known one another for years (though not very well), and both of them are lonely. Addie makes an unusual request of Louis: she wants him to come and spend nights at her house, lying in bed next to her, just talking. Louis is surprised, but he agrees to give it a try, and they strike up a friendship – spending their nights in quiet companionship, telling each other the stories of their lives.

Haruf eloquently explores the terrain of this new relationship through exchanges like this one, where Louis admits to Addie:

The truth is I like it [being with you]. I like it a lot. I’d miss it if I didn’t have it. What about you?

I love it, she said. It’s better than I had hoped for. It’s a kind of mystery. I like the friendship of it. I like the time together. Being here in the dark of night. The talking. Hearing you breathe next to me if I wake up.

I like all that too.

When word gets around town about Addie and Louis’ arrangement, several people, including Louis’ daughter and Addie’s son, disapprove. But through their nights together, these two elderly people discover again what it means to really know another person. They open themselves up, sharing stories and anecdotes, looking back on the choices they’ve made in their lives. They come to respect and even love one another, enjoying the simple pleasures of companionship and long walks and quiet talks late at night. “It turns out we’re not finished with changes and excitements,” Addie says with wonder in her voice.

Haruf writes in unadorned yet evocative prose: lines made up of simple words that shimmer with wisdom. My favorite passage comes later in the book, when Louis and Addie are discussing their relationship. Addie says they’re “old news,” and Louis counters: “We’re not even old news. We’re not news of any kind at all, old or new.” Addie replies:

Do you want to be news?

No. Hell. I just want to live simply and pay attention to what’s happening each day.

That’s what I want from life, too. And I want to read more books like this one: luminous and wise, bittersweet yet hopeful.

 

Katie Noah Gibson is a writer, editor, knitter and compulsive tea-drinker living in the Boston area with her husband. Born in Texas, she’s a lifelong Anglophile with a particular love for Oxford, but she loves to travel just about anywhere. You can find her at her blog, Cakes, Tea and Dreams, reviewing books at Shelf Awareness, or on Twitter at @katiengibson.

 

Have you read Our Souls at Night or another of Haruf’s works? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Link to buy Our Souls at Night at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.