Thursday, July 9, 2015

Our Souls at Night: Book Review

Published 26 May 2015
I'm going to try to say something smart about this book, but I'm probably going to be emotional.

Kent Haruf's last book, Our Souls at Night (2015) conveys a lot of depth and complexity with a stylistically light touch.  I'm in awe.  His prose is sparse, yet it conveys a lot of heft.

This 179 page novella is set in the fictional town Holt, Colorado--well outside of Denver on the eastern plains area of the state.  All of his works of fiction are set in the same town.

However, I was absolutely entranced by this quiet romance novel--if that's what you call it. It's unclear because the two main characters participate in a relationship that's a bit unconventional.

The novel opens with widow Addie Moore walking over to visit Louis Waters in order to make a proposition. They are both older adults who have lost a spouse.

They've known each other for  years but haven't really spoken directly except perhaps to exchange pleasantries. Nevertheless, Addie is full sick of the empty spot in the bed next to her, and she has selected Louis as the man to solve that problem: "I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk."



What follows is a quiet unfolding of two people's lives.  It's an interesting contrast to see how two people get to know each other from the point of view of late life.  Telling your "life story" is a lot more complex at 70 than 27.   How do you convey the nuances of a prior marriage?  How to you explain the ripple effect of personal tragedy? How to you convey your hopes for the future when that future is so much shorter at 70 than 27?

I found it totally fascinating to watch these two narrate their past lives and create a new relationship together, one that had a lot of age-related constraints.  But this novel is not preachy at all.  It shows; it doesn't tell.  Addie and Louis are understated, patient, grounded and mature.  This is no bodice ripper, but the depth of emotion is palpable.

By the end, tears silently rolled down my cheeks.  It wasn't just the characters that moved me. Haruf's style is also understated, patient, grounded and mature.  He crafted something simple yet sturdy and beautiful -- like a hope chest for storing heirlooms.

I was quietly stunned by the beauty of his last novel that I have vowed to read every book he's written, and to read them slowly so that I can savor both form and content.

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12 comments:

  1. I love the premise. I've just put this book on my to-read list. Thanks.

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    1. It is an interesting premise. Good way to put that.

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  2. I love these kind of books. It's now on my "must read" list for summer. Thanks for the great review!

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    1. Enjoy this and all of your summer reads.

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  3. Wow, what a great review. It sounds like a beautiful book and I'm definitely adding it to my reading list.

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    1. I love the understated beauty, and I hope you do, too.

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  4. You have my interest! Must check this out. Love stories that unfold and deliver us fully lived lives. They are the bests. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. "fully lived lives" That's a nice turn of phrase. I hope you enjoy "meeting" the not-so-young lovers, Addie and Louis.

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  5. I think your review is as nuanced as you describe his novel- which I will now be going out to find. Thank you.

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  6. I have read great things about this book, and your post makes me determined to read it... soon. Sounds lovely and quiet and touching. Thank you for sharing!

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  7. Thanks for the reminder about this final work of Kent Haruf. As soon as I read your blog, I ordered the book. I've loved all of his work and was so saddened to learn of his passing. When I think about him growing up the son of a minister, I imagine him catching glimpses of the best and worst that humanity has to offer. His characters are real, yet I always feel an undercurrent of hope (that's my dime's worth). Can't wait to read this book!!

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  8. Oh, I had to add that one to my book list. It sounds wonderful and you describe it perfectly!

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