Published by Knopf
Publication date: May 26th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Literary
I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably. Lying down in bed together and you staying the night. The nights are the worst. Don’t you think?
This is the crux of the proposition Addie Moore puts to her neighbor, Louis Waters, in Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Both are in their seventies and widowed and Addie is lonely enough that she has no concerns for what anyone will think about Louis coming over to her house at night and leaving in the morning. She just wants someone to talk with and to fall asleep next to. It is out of such a seemingly small request that Haruf crafts another novel about the small town of Holt, Colorado, using Addie and Louis as the foundation for a multi-generational story about family, aging and how we decide what matters.
Our Souls at Night is not a novel of ingenious plot peopled with unusually complex characters. Rather it is a simple story of life as it happens and how we choose to deal with it. As in his previous novels, (Plainsong and Benediction are two of my favorites), this is what Haruf does best. Addie’s life goes from being alone to finding solace with a new friend and, unexpectedly, to caring for her grandson when her entitled son, who has relied on her emotional and financial generosity his entire life, finds the boy to be too much after his mother leaves them. Later, he decides that while Addie has no say in his choices he has every say in hers. What begins as a lovely and loving situation, with three lonely people making a difference in each other’s lives, ends in unhappiness for all of them.
With his delicate, bare sentences Haruf’s prose charts depths of the human heart other more wordy writers never find. He imbues Addie and Louis with a profound dignity and tenderness that, even when tested, cannot be diminished. And yet, Our Souls at Night is not a treacle-y Hallmark card for senior citizens but a fragile reflection on love, respect and kindness at all ages. Even at its saddest Haruf’s writing is a soothing balm to the frenetic rawness of today’s world. That he passed away last year means that the solace provided by this incomparable writer’s words is gone and that is the part of Our Souls at Night that hurts the most.