Our Souls at Night is a coming of age story. Old age. Readers who cringed at seeing their grandparents kiss or otherwise show affection should look elsewhere for their next novel. Those ready to explore the complex relationships of long life, love, friends and family in Holt, Colorado: read on.
This thin book grabbed me during its opening scene and didn’t let go. Louis, an elderly widower receives a surprise visit from Addie, an elderly widow from down the block who boldly inquires after only the slimmest of small talk, “I wonder if you would consider coming to my house to sleep with me?” It is down the page a bit where it is clarified Addie is not offering sex. “I wondered about that,” is Louis’s response. Addie’s loneliness is much more powerful than her fear of small town rumor mills and gossip shops.
In Our Souls at Night, Haruf explores the myriad relationships that make up small town America. How relationships are maintained and strengthened and how they end.
My favorite passages in this book detail the wonderfully cutting rejoinders dished out to mercilessly crush small town gossipers just when they need it most. I know Haruf had many days to create these perfect put-downs on paper, but I have often wished to have such biting wit ready in the exact instant needed. (Alas, I wouldn’t have the nerve to deliver the words anyway.)
Haruf shows another clever bit of writing when Louis and Addie discuss the plausibility of two of his previous novels set in Holt County. They agree there may have been two bachelor cattle ranching brothers who take in a pregnant girl (Plainsong). I have not yet read the other book referenced (Benediction), this one is about a dying man and a preacher, but will ask for it the next time I am in the library. If it is as good a read as Our Souls at Night, you should too.