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…