Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf

It is one of the books I bought during my visit to Denver last year. I never read Kent Haruf before, but his books came so highly recommended that I bought two, right away. It took me a few months to get to this one, but now I have to hold myself back not to read the Benediction right away.

It is a quite short book (just shy of 200 pages) and I read it in one sitting, I had other plans, but plans can change if a good book grabs you. And this one does. I’ll steal part of the Goodreads blurb to set the scene:

Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbour, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. 

Addie asks Louis if he’d come to her house to sleep with her. She is not looking for a new husband, or even a close relationship, what she is after is dispelling the terrible loneliness she feels at night. Louis, a bit surprised by the direct offer agrees. Both of them are in their seventies, so this is a bold move. Especially given that they live in a small community so there will be no end of gossips. Through their night conversations, Addie and Louis become closer.

As Addie’s son’s marriage falls apart, Jamie, her small nephew moves in with her. Addie, Louis and Jamie grow closer as the adults take care of the boy to help him heal. They buy a dog and do their best to entertain themselves and the boy. Of course, not everything is easy, not only the neighbours judge them, their children somehow think they have a say in their parent’s life. Things gradually get more and more difficult.

It was such a beautiful book, a very simple plot, but so moving. It is astounding in how many ways this could go wrong and the whole book would end up being a touchy-feely cliche, but Haruf masterly manages to stay exactly on the sharp edge between moving and kitschy. Making it a fantastic read, resonating with the reader (who of us is not afraid of old age, loneliness, not being self-sufficient) to bring both sadness and joy of fully experiencing the simple things.

I did not expect a book this good, especially that the main adjective that comes to my mind is tender. Haruf tenderly allows his characters to develop, their relationship to grow and then observes the aftermath. It has been a while since a book moved me so much, it made me laugh and it made me cry. The story really is simple, which makes it very believable, life stories are usually very simple at its core. That does not mean of course that they are simple to live through.

My timing is as always perfect because now it is also a movie on Netflix with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. I haven’t watched it yet so I won’t opine, but please do share in comments if you’ve seen it!

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @vkphotospace.com 

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