Our Souls at Night

Even at first sight, this small volume by Kent Haruf drew me in although I had four other books to consider reading on my nightstand. Why did it attract me? Was it because this was the author’s last work? Or was it because it takes on the topic of aging – and being alone, which we will all face one day? Both, I think, but as I quickly read the story before me, I loved the gentle unfolding of this tale of two quiet souls, seeking friendship and compassion.

Our Souls at Night is a heart-felt, personal story about two people in the fictional small Colorado town of Holt. It is a testament of the power of the enduring friendship of a man and a woman, who opt for companionship and the sharing their lifes’ stories to help dispel the loneliness that they have felt living alone.

Haruf describes his own relationship with his second wife in this wonderful story, casting them as Louis Waters and Addie Moore. The Harufs’ favorite time together as a couple was just talking while lying in bed before they slept. This detail is central to the book’s story, as the character Addie first approaches Louis about spending the night at her home. This passage highlights their first conversation:

“[Addie] I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.

[Louis] What? How do you mean?

[Addie] I mean we are 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.” [p.5]

The above passage shows Haruf’s writing style without the use of quotation marks. The “free” dialog allows the words to flow – a peaceful way to express conversation between his characters. The story progresses and reveals how Addie, Louis, and their families adjust to this new friendship, and what challenges are brought to the forefront that people do not understand.

A recent Wall Street Journal article titled  “Kent Haruf’s Last Chapter” details Haruf’s intense writing to complete Our Souls at Night while he was dying of incurable lung disease. The article details the author’s feelings: “…in April, I began to feel a little better, and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to just sit around waiting. It was something significant for me to get up every day.’” Kent and Cathy also started their own Book Club of Mortality, which is mentioned in this article.

Kent HarufIt is amazing that the first draft of this novel was completed in just 45 days, and Kent was able to share it with his wife, Cathy, before his death on November 30, 2014.

You might be familiar with his novel Plainsong, a popular book that was a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award. Most of his works centered on small town life, and the relationships of the people who lived there. Kent Haruf was a talented author who will be missed.

 

 

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