Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf


23602562In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s 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.


Traveling from the US East coast to Japan is a long flight. Even if you cheat a little and start in Chicago you’ll spend 12, 13, 14 hours in the air with nothing but your own wits and the in-flight entertainment to keep you occupied. Books are my crack so I load up my ereader with a little bit of everything, hoping something will match my mood in the air.

After the first meal (there are two, plus a snack!) they turn out the lights because the flight goes much faster if you’re asleep. In the dark Our Souls at Night sounded like the perfect book… and it was.

The bulk of the text is dialogue so you learn about the characters on their own terms. The language is beautiful not because it’s flowery but because it’s simple and oh so true.

You’re being too hard on yourself again, Addie said. Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if any at all. It’s always two people bumping against each other blindly, acting out of old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings.

The story unfolds slowly, introducing sons and daughters and the sweet old lady next door. Every character is fully fleshed out and wonderfully characterized. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Addie and Louis, getting indignant on their behalf when closed-minded townies misunderstand their relationship. I worried when a five year old child is introduced but he acted exactly as a five year old should – wanting to touch baby rats and not saying anything profound. It was quite a relief after a run of plot moppets in my reading.

Themes tend towards the personal and familial – growing old, having regrets, deciding how you want to spend your remaining years (and with whom). Usually it’s not my bag but I loved it here, probably because each issue is dealt with realistically and with respect. Not everyone agrees and there are a few loose ends but they all serve the story.

I really enjoyed Our Souls at Night and, needless to say, finished it in one (long) sitting. Perfect for when you want a quiet read that will make you think about themes without taxing your brain with overly elaborate language.

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