This is the rare kind of book I can see recommending to almost anyone. Kent Haruf is such a beautiful writer, and while I loved Plainsong, one of his earliest books, this one had more depth.
Haruf writes in a deceptively simple way. Not much happens in this book, and on the surface these characters don’t seem too complex. Yet it’s a powerful, moving story that will stay with you long after other books do.
This novel is the story of two neighbors in their seventies, Addie and Louis. They aren’t quite friends; they knew each others’ spouses, both of whom passed away some time ago. Addie, feeling lonely and liking what she knows of Louis, goes to him with a proposition.
Naively, I would have thought two adults entering into a relationship is the same whether the couple is in their 30s, 50s, or 70s. But it’s not. People’s prejudices about the elderly come into play, especially in a small town like Holt, Colorado.
There’s a beauty in Addie and Louis’ friendship that I haven’t seen in most books. As this book unfolds you get to know their pasts, their loves and mistakes. They are good people but not perfect people. These are two people I wish I knew. I was particularly moved by the story of Addie’s son and her grandson Jamie. I don’t want to say more about this book, except that you should read it.
Who would have thought at this time in our lives that we’d still have something like this. That it turns out we’re not finished with changes and excitements. And not all dried up in body and spirit.
Comparing this book to Plainsong, also a wonderful book, you see more complexity in the characters. Plainsong’s characters were mostly very good or very bad. Here you see that marriages and relationships are difficult, and problems are handed down from generation to generation. And yet love itself isn’t that complicated.
Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if at all. It’s always two people bumping against each other blindly, acting out of old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings. Except I still say that this isn’t true of you and me. Not right now, not today.
I haven’t read Haruf’s other novels (although I will) but I’m guessing that in Our Souls at Night you can see the maturity in Haruf’s writing compared to his earlier books.
Our Souls at Night is, sadly, Haruf’s last novel. He passed away at the end of 2014. A huge loss for us as readers.