20 Books of Summer #1 – Why have I never read Kent Haruf before?

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Over the years, so many people have sung the praises of Kent Haruf, but he remained undiscovered for me until I got one of his novels at a book sale – then it sat on the shelf until I picked it up for this years 20 Books of Summer challenge. Now I’ve finally read one, I’ve got to read the lot!  The sad thing is that Haruf died in 2014, and Our Souls at Night was his last novel, published posthumously in 2015.

All of Haruf’s novels are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado (modelled on Yuma). Fittingly perhaps, for his last novel, the two protagonists of Our Souls at Night are in their seventies and both widowed.  Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbours for many years, but they don’t really know each other.  They live alone in their old family homes, their children have long moved out and started their own families. Then one day, Addie pays Louis a visit, and after swapping pleasantries, she comes out with a proposal:

I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.
What? How do you mean?
I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.

The next day, Louis gets a haircut and a shave, and later than night goes round to Addie’s with his pyjamas and toothbrush in a paper bag. Their friendship grows and deepens as they talk about their lives at night in bed at Addie’s house, sometimes holding hands. It’s tender and lovely, however tongues do start to wag in this small town, but Addie is unrepentant – they have a right not to be lonely.

Their routine is becoming well-oiled, when a fly in the ointment arrives in the form of Addie’s son Gene, who has spit up with his wife, and wants his son to stay with his grandmother for the summer while he sorts things out.  Of course Addie will take him in; it means nights separated from Louis as young Jamie cries himself to sleep. Gradually, she introduces Louis to Jamie, and soon man and boy are having a whale of a time, especially once Louis gets a rescue dog who becomes Jamie’s best friend. Sadly Gene resents Louis’s presence in his son’s life and forces change. Can Addie and Louis’s deep friendship which, as you might imagine, is tipping over towards love survive?

This was such a beautiful book, and I cried and cried at one point. The two protagonists are so well portrayed in Haruf’s speech markless conversations. Almost the whole book is Addie and Louis just talking to each other, or with Jamie, or their wonderful octogenarian neighbour Ruth who lives in between their houses. He adds minimal descriptions of settings and actions where needed, but the book is really a dialogue between its two stars, and their characters are perfectly captured. I absolutely adored it. (10/10)

Don’t just take my word for it – read Susan’s review here.

Source: Own copy.  Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night (2015) Picador paperback, 192 pages. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link).

I note it was filmed for Netflix last year starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, who are both rather beautiful – but having just watched the trailer, they’re just right and I must remember to watch it.  Have any of you seen it?  Here’s the trailer…

28 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer #1 – Why have I never read Kent Haruf before?

  1. For some reason I had the totally wrong impression of what this book was about, and its length (thought it was a doorstopper)! It sounds great.

  2. My mother read this for her book club and loved it. I’ve never read any Haruf, but I own copies of Plainsong and Benediction in America and will retrieve one or both this summer.

  3. Alex says:

    Oh dear, another reader here who has never heard of Kent Haruf before. And, after reading your review and seeing the trailer, is another one to add to my wish list. I think this is a must-read kind of book. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This was my first Haruf as well, and I adored it. So many lovely details and such crisp prose! I haven’t yet seen the movie, or read any of his other books, but I hope to do both.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I adore writers who can say so much with so few words – Haruf is surely one. Longing to read Plainsong next.

  5. Lovely review, Annabel. I think you’re going to love the Plainsong trilogy. Haruf’s writing is full of humanity and compassion for ordinary folk as they try to cope with the day-to-day challenges of life.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks Jacqui, I know I’ll enjoy Plainsong – and the others. This book really touched me in a way that say Anne Tyler, who writes of ordinary folk too, never could.

  6. This is such a special review of a special book! I felt the same way when I read this book last summer! I bought his backlist, but I can hardly bear to read one knowing that he won’t be writing anymore. If you haven’t already found her, Elizabeth Strout is another author who writes quiet stories and is often compared to Haruf. I hoard her books, too!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thank you Jennifer. Much appreciated. I will too look forward to reading the rest of Haruf – maybe interspersing them with Elizabeth Strout will make them last longer, for Strout is another one of those authors whom I keep meaning to read.

  7. I’m feeling a little better, noting how many others have not read Haruf. His work has been recommended to me more than once and I have had every intention of reading one of his books; it’s just never happened. Reading your touching review – I just know I would love this book. And indeed this writer.

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