Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fiction Review: Our Souls at Night

I have never read a novel by Kent Haruf before (though I’ve had Plainsong on my shelf for years), so I was thrilled when my neighborhood book group chose his last book, Our Souls at Night, for our June selection. This slim novel is a gentle, poignant story about aging, friendship, and love that we all enjoyed.

Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbors in the small town of Holt, CO, for many years, though they don’t know each other very well. So, it’s quite a surprise when Addie stops by Louis’ house one May evening with a very unusual proposal. They both lost their spouses (Addie was actually friends with Louis’ wife) years ago and live alone now. Addie says the nights are the worst for loneliness and asks Louis if he would come over and sleep with her at night…no, not that kind of “sleep with”! She is just lonely during the long nights and wants someone to lie next to her, someone to talk to.

Although Louis worries about what people will think, he agrees because he is lonely, too. He walks two doors over to Addie’s house that first night, with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a brown paper bag, and goes back home in the morning. It’s a bit awkward at first, but they soon get used to each other’s company, settle into a routine, and begin to get to know each other better. As Louis suspected, people in their small town do gossip, but Addie says she doesn’t care, and soon Louis adopts her attitude, too. Unfortunately, their grown children do care and are appalled.

This is a warm, gentle, achingly sweet story about reaching for happiness later in life, at a time when it seems like those days are behind you. It’s a brief story – less than 200 pages – that captures that magical summer after Addie’s outrageous proposal. Although Addie and Louis soon grow fond of each other, things aren’t easy for them, and several challenges pop up, some of which they may not be able to overcome. My favorite scenes in the book were with Addie’s grandson, where the three of them, plus a shelter dog and an elderly neighbor, form a makeshift family. Their adventures together made me smile.

Everyone in my neighborhood book group enjoyed this unique novel, and we had plenty to discuss – about aging, loneliness, being a widow, and happiness at any age. It’s a seemingly simple story that has great emotional depth, and it touched all of us. Haruf’s writing is exquisite – spare yet illuminating – and Addie and Louis truly come to life in these short pages. After reading this quiet yet beautiful and moving novel, I am eager to read the rest of Haruf’s novels, especially those set in Holt. I need to find Plainsong on my shelf and dust it off!

179 pages, Alfred A. Knopf 

Our Souls at Night
by Kent HarufTrade Paperback

 Or purchase at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT:

Or purchase Our Souls At Night from Book Depository.


  1. This sounds so good! And what a wonderful idea that people who are alone later in life find a way to connect to others in a way that works for them!

    1. I think you would love this novel, Helen!