Our Souls At Night / Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf set all of his novels in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Our Souls At Night, his final book written shortly before he died, takes the reader back to the same city. It is a story stripped down to the bare bones, one devoid of poetical embellishment, simply focusing on precise narration of casual conversations. It deals with an older couple who, lonely in old age after the deaths of their spouses, start to share a bed at night.

In the beginning, companionship proves to be the important ingredient that brings them together. Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbors for decades, but until Addie approaches him out of the blue with a proposition to share her bed, they had never before been close friends. In a town as small as Holt, his nightly visits to her quickly become fodder for gossip. It also sends ripples of concern throughout the family tree. Their children soon express disapproval and begin to try to derail their relationship.

In the early stages of reading this book. I was ready to dismiss it as too paper-thin, lacking the necessary depth to elevate it to the status of Haruf’s earlier works. However, my opinion had shifted by the time I reached its sad and yet compassionate conclusion. To me, the author proved in this compact story that less is often more. Addie states in one of the book’s final chapters, describing their affair, “it’s just old people talking in the dark.” Even if devoid of poetic flourishes, it still touches the reader’s heart.

The author’s bare bones description of his characters’ need to share a lifetime of memories with someone provides the book with a surprising depth. It is a satisfying conclusion to Haruf’s literary career. For readers new to his writing, I urge them to dive into his earlier work as well. His Holt stories capture the small town in loving detail, showing both the warts and kindnesses found in the heartland of today’s America.

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