Posted by: Jeanie F | June 8, 2015

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

 

For those of you who share my love for Kent Haruf’s fine writing, reading this book will be a bittersweet experience. Haruf died in November, leaving a legacy of some of the most human and generous books I’ve ever read. Plainsong, a finalist for the National Book Award, began the “trilogy” of novels about life in fictional Holt, Colorado. Although not identified as an addition to the trilogy, which also included Eventide and Benediction, this latest book is our final chapter on the town where people live physically simple, but emotionally complex, lives. What Haruf has done for us is to scale down the noise that is so often present in modern day fiction, using Holt as a microcosm to show us the depth of human nature. As Joan Silber writes in the New York Times Book Review, “. . . his great subject was the struggle of decency against small-mindedness, and his rare gift was to make sheer decency a moving subject.”

Our Souls at Night is the story of a relationship that builds between a widow and a widower, both living alone and both in their early seventies. Addie Moore proposes to Louis Waters, a neighbor and mild acquaintance, that they begin to sleep together – not for sex, but to ease the loneliness that each experiences. Louis is surprised – he has only known Addie as a friend of his departed wife – but decides with some reservations that this is worth a try. The rest of the story shows their growing friendship, the way two people can gain succor from a warm heart and a curious mind. It is a life affirming story, moving and lovely.

There are a few twists and turns in the story, but this short novel – barely more than a novella – has more to do with relationship than with action. I read recently that Haruf and his wife, Kathy, worked together to finish Our Souls before Haruf died, and that the concept – talking together in bed at night, the stories, the comfort, the closeness – came from their own marriage. I like knowing this, knowing that a man who could bring people like the McPheron brothers and Victoria Rubiedeaux (Plainsong), Rose Tyler (Eventide), Dad Lewis (Benediction) and Addie and Louis to his readers, lived at least some of the beauty that he brought to us.

For myself, I finished reading Our Souls at Night with great sadness, knowing that I can expect no more of Haruf’s beautiful, spare prose, fallible yet well-intentioned characters, and celebration of the human soul. I will miss him.

Rest in peace, Mr. Haruf.

Grade: A+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Responses

  1. Thank you Jeanie. I have not read these books but Plainsong is on my shelf because of you. I may begin with Our Souls At Night.

    Lita

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Each book stands alone, so this won’t be a problem, but don’t miss out on Plainsong!

  2. Such a heartfelt review, Jeanie. I love, love Kent Haruf and will miss his gentle but profound voice. But aren’t we blessed to have his books to re- read. I am picking up Our Souls At Rest today and am looking forward to a quiet time with it.

    • Roberta, I had the same thought – will go back and read the entire trilogy. I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve ever cried at the death of an author but, somehow, he has always felt like a friend.

      • I shed some tears for John Updyke. Especially while reading Endpoint, his final book of poems and My Father’s Tears, his posthumously published book of short stories. Early on he introduced me to literary fiction.


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