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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Published on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Reaching Out for Comfort on Their Own Terms

In this elegant novella, we meet Addie and Louis, widowers in their early seventies and near neighbors. They live in the fictitious, small town of Holt in southeast Colorado. Neither Addie nor Louis had wildly happy marriages. Addie’s daughter Connie was accidentally killed when she was a child, and her embittered husband retreated into himself, with little affection leftover for Addie or their young son, Gene. Louis, a high school teacher, played out his dissatisfaction with his own marriage by having a brief affair. It was eventually broken off, but in small town Holt, the memory of scandal is long and unforgiving.
So, when Addie invites Louis to spend the night with her for the comfort of having a warm, breathing body sleeping beside her in the dark and loneliness of night, Louis packs a paper sack containing his pajamas and toothbrush and begins his nightly visits to Addie’s. Together, they find companionship, friendship, warmth, fun, and a love that is at once, adult and innocent.
Enter the offspring. Addie’s son, Gene, struggling with a failed business and a rocky marriage, leaves his six year old with Addie while he tries to get his life in order. The little boy is sad, lonely, and confused. A little like Addie. But Addie comforts him with normalcy, routines, and kindness. Louis befriends him, teaches him to play catch, and buys him a dog. All is well until Gene re-enters the picture furious about Addie’s “scandalous” relationship with Louis, imagines that Louis is just after her money, and uses the threat of withholding visits with his son to blackmail Addie into putting a stop to her friendship with Louis.
The story of these two relatively uncomplicated, decent people is written in a spare, elegant style with dialogue that rings with authenticity and is a pleasure to read. This was Kent Haruf’s last book before his death in 2015, and is a reminder of what a truly good writer he was. Readers will be inspired to go back and read some of the other titles by this author. And at this time, we have all of his previous works in our collection. Happy reading!
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