Our Souls at Night

oursoulsOur Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf
2015 / 188 pages
rating –  8.5 /  contemp lit (US)

Kent Haruf has done it again – a gentle story about life in a small town in Wyoming – the same place Plainsong and his other novels are set.  But each of these  novels is a stand-alones,  no need to read a prior before this one.

One day the 70-year old Addie Moore walks down the street to visit her long-time neighbor, Louis Waters.  They are both widowed and alone so she asks him if he’d like to spend the night – just to lie next to each other and talk.  He agrees and that night he arrives and the arrangement works for them,  it sticks.   The book and their relationship is not about sex,  it’s about loneliness and companionability and a couple of the common ways in which the world can interfere.  It’s also about the general heartaches of life as they reveal their histories to their bed-partner.

But before long the nighttime idylls of Addie and Louis become the business of others.  A neighbor catches sight and so naturally the cafe crowd knows where Louis is spending his nights.  And another worldly event appears in the form of Addie’s 6-year old grandson who comes for an extended stay while his parents try out a separation.  Addie doesn’t care what the neighbors think but when it comes to her son … well,  there are problems.

Haruf  uses language as sparsely as the prairie uses trees so what’s there is fully appreciated in its straightforward simplicity – still, the two characters become fully drawn and complete.

There were times I thought the novel just a bit too sweet – too down-home Americana.  But I’ve felt those kinds of  times with my own granddaughters – driving 35 miles home from a shopping trip to Grand Forks (ND) with country music on the radio and the sunflowers waving at us.  Little camping trips, going to parades and raking leaves are what people d0 – and you take the dog along. And you treat each other with respect and decency and kindness.

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