Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a simple, straight talking, touching book about loneliness, love and longing late in life. One day Addie Moore suggests to her neighbour Louis Waters that he visit her house each night and sleep in her bed. Both are in their seventies, widowed, lonely and don’t know each other well. Acknowledging Addie’s bravery in asking the question, Louis arrives with his pyjamas and toothbrush in a bag.
And so starts this touching novel about relationships, family and morality. Addie and Louis sleep side-by-side, not touching. They ignore the glances of neighbours, fearing censure. But the townsfolk nod and smile at them, while their own children disapprove. And so one generation seeks to control another.
When their new dynamic is disrupted by the arrival of Addie’s six-year-old grandson Jamie, Addie and Louis’s relationship enters a new stage. Jamie’s parents have separated and he is distressed. Addie’s son Gene has asked his mother to help. This new three-person family begins to slowly to heal itself, starting slowly by visiting a family of new born mice in Louis’ shed.
This is a short read, manageable in one sitting. The language is beautiful. Addie’s suggestion does not contain one redundant word. “I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.”
Haruf is non-judgemental; he doesn’t point fingers at the small-minded criticism, he simply shows how friendship can be a saviour for the elderly, lonely and forgotten.
A word about dialogue. There are no speech marks and I missed them. In some places it was difficult to know who was speaking, which made me stop and think and took me away from the emotion of the story. Which was a pity.
This is the first book by Haruf that I have read, and the last he wrote; now I’ll seek out the others. It was made as a film in 2017 featuring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.
BUY THE BOOK
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