‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf – Sleeping Together

‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf   (2015) – 179 pages    Grade:  B+

B821981376Z.1_20150602172515_000_G821G7OUM.2_Gallery‘Our Souls at Night’ begins with a seemingly outrageous proposal.

The lady Addie asks the man Louis, “I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.”

“No, not sex.  I’m not looking at it that way.  I think I’ve lost any sexual impulse a long time ago.  I’m talking about getting through the night.  And lying warm in bed companionably.  Lying down in bed together and you staying the night.  The nights are the worst.  Don’t you think?”

Addie and Louis live in the same neighborhood. They’ve known each other, not very well, for a long time.  They have both lost their mates to death as sometimes happens with older people.

Why not sleep together?

“I wondered why you picked me.  We don’t really know each other very well.”

“Because I think you are a good man.  A kind man.”

“I hope I am.”

“I think you are.  And I’ve always sort of thought of you as someone I might be able to like and to talk to.”    

Despite all the glamorous clubs and casinos, all the Internet chat rooms, and all the huge sports stadiums, men and women of all ages are still just looking for and not finding a little non-threatening meeting place where they can get together and talk to each other.

In plain simple unadorned prose, Colorado writer Kent Haruf tells the story of these two near seventy-year-olds Addie and Louis

“It’s some kind of decision to be free.  Even at our ages.” 

Of course neighbors see Louis arriving at Addie’s house in the evening and leaving in the morning.  These neighbors react in two distinct ways.  Some decide it is none of their business, take it in stride, and wish them the best.  However there are moments of sharpness when a few other neighbors start gossiping about them and questioning their relationship.  Their own grown-up children have difficulty dealing with it.

Despite their children’s discord and a few neighbors’ interference, the actual bond between Addie and Louis is presented as near idyllic.  Addie’s son is having problems in his own marriage and soon her six-year-old grandson Jamie is living with Addie.  Louis decides that Jamie should have a dog, and they take the boy and dog on outings around Colorado.

This is the last novel by Kent Haruf.  He died last November.  ‘Our Souls at Night’, like all of his novels, takes place in the fictional eastern Colorado town of Holt.  I suppose Kent Haruf could best be described as a western minimalist.  ‘Our Souls at Night’ is a short novel, and its stately prose frames this simple story well.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve been reading Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy, spacing them out over the past three years in an effort to savour his writing. (Just finished Benediction last week and I hope to review it fairly soon.) This new one sounds very moving – he brings such a deep understanding of humanity to his work.

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    • Hi Jacqui,
      I find that Haruf’s novels, including ‘Our Souls at Night’, stay in my mind long after I’ve read and forgotten a lot of other novels. I may re-think the grade I assigned to it. I guess the phrase for his fiction is ‘dramatic simplicity’.

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  2. This sounds an intriguing premise for a story. I’ve read only one Haruf novel and thought he was really able to get inside the heads of his characters

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    • Hi Booker Talk,
      ‘Our Souls at Night’ is an easy novel to read and like. Having just read another novel which was just the opposite (I won’t name it yet), I appreciate Haruf even more. He will be missed.

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  3. I read and admired Benediction and must try this one. I have heard nothing but good about this, and yes, internet chat rooms are not the same.:)

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    • Hi Kat,
      It would be difficult for reviewers to have criticized ‘Our Souls at Night’ since it was Haruf’s last novel published posthumously, Still I found it is a strong work that shows Haruf’s admirable qualities.

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  4. I really enjoyed this book, read it in one sitting. It’s a shame it is his last novel.

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