In the small Colorado town of Holt, the setting for previous novels by Kent Haruf, Addie Moore lives alone. And around the corner is her neighbor Louis Waters. Both are widowed, and are in their 70s. Both seem to lack real human connection in their lives, although they certainly have friends and acquaintances.
One day, Addie shows up on Louis’s doorstep with a proposal.
I’m listening, Louis said.
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.
She asks him to come sleep with her at night. Not for sex, mind you. It’s the closeness she seeks. She wants someone to fall asleep with, to talk with in the dark, to make the nights a little less lonely. And after some thought, Louis agrees.
On the first night, Louis comes through the alley to Addie’s back door with his pajamas and toothbrush in a paper bag, but Addie tells him to come to the front door from now on, if he intends to continue. There will be no sneaking around.
And that’s really it. Small town folks talk, of course, and people seek to create gossip and scandal, but Addie and Louis will have none of it. They refuse to be ashamed, and they refuse to stop. In the night, they talk over their lives, their marriages, their children, the disappointments, the dreams, the pain and the joy. And from these nights, the two form an unusual intimacy, closer than most marriages, that seems like a true meeting of souls.
Just, wow. What a book.
Kent Haruf uses deceptively simple language to paint a gorgeous picture of the inner lives of common people. Our Souls at Night is a short book, under 200 pages, and much of it consists of dialogue between the two characters. Their speech, like their lives, is plain and unadorned. They’ve been through a lot over the course of the years, and they talk to each other directly and openly, no hiding or subterfuge. It’s as though, after all they’ve experienced and all the ups and downs of their lives up to this point, they’re dispensing with the bullshit and getting right to what matters.
This is a beautiful, elegant, graceful book. The writing is spare, pared down to the essentials. There’s nothing fancy about the characters, their speech patterns, or the story. It’s simply a powerful book about the connection between two people who manage to find happiness and true connection at a point in their lives when everyone expects them to simply behave and then fade away.
I read the author’s novel Plainsong years ago and remember that I ended up loving it for its stripped-down beauty. I’m sorry that I haven’t read more by this author, and I do intend to correct that. Our Souls at Night is Kent Haruf’s final novel, as he passed away in 2014 at the age of 71.
This book really swept me up and moved me, and I’d like to page through it for a while longer before I return it to the library. My immediate reaction, though, right after finishing the final pages, is just this: Our Souls at Night is lovely, and should not be missed.
Title: Our Souls at Night
Author: Kent Haruf
Publication date: May 26, 2015
Length: 179 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction