Book Review: Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at NightOur Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
Alfred A. Knopf 
179 pages

Some authors have a talent of using exactly the right prose and cadence thereof to evoke an atmosphere that complements the story itself. Kent Haruf’s final novel, published posthumously after his death last November, is that kind of book.

With both of their spouses deceased, Addie Moore and Louis Waters are the sort of good, decent, gentle persons who – despite decades of living on the same street – are barely more than acquaintances on the polite periphery of each other’s lives. Each knows the framework of details that become embedded in a community: one’s long-ago scandalous affair, the death of the other’s young daughter in a terrible accident.

Loneliness and a need for connection prompts Addie, a widow, to ask Louie if he would consider sleeping with her – not, as many of their neighbors conclude, in a sexual sense but rather as a comfort and a physical presence during the long, dark nights. Initially hesitant, Louis appears at Addie’s door and what unfolds is a genuine connection based on conversation, companionship, trust, respect, and similar life experiences and stages. It is absolutely beautiful.

However, not everyone In their small town of Holt, Colorado (or Addie and Louis’s families, for that matter) views their relationship that way. And that matters because assumptions can be destructive and divisive, especially in the face of so-called traditional or typical relationship constructs that are unhealthy or dysfunctional.

Our Souls at Night is a quiet, understated novel about love and grief, family and community.  It challenges the reader to view older people as still having desires and needs rather than individuals who should renounce all vestiges of intimacy the minute their AARP card arrives in the mail.  It is a gorgeous finale for author Kent Haruf.


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