‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf


2015, 179 pages.

What an absolute gem of a book!  It’s only 179 broadly spaced pages long, but it’s gentle and wise and sad and when I finished it too late into the night, I sat in bed and cried.

Addie Moore is a widow in a small country town and one night she knocks on the door of her long-time neighbour, Louis.  They have known each other a long time, both their partners have died, and their children are grown up. “Will you sleep with me?” she asks- not sex, but just sleep.

No, not sex. I’m not looking at it that way. I think I lost any sexual impulse a long time ago. I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably.  Lying down in bed together and staying the night.  The nights are the worst. Don’t you think? (p 5)

It’s ironic that I recently read a book called Reading in Bed that involved older characters. I disliked it for its shameless milking of ‘older reader’ characteristics and preferences.  The theme of being in bed as an older person ties the two books, and yet they couldn’t be more different.  Reading in Bed was trivial and bloated: Our Souls at Night is restrained and dignified and says more in its 180 pages than the other book did in 344.

I even had a little chuckle at the end of the book when the author rather cheekily referenced one of his own books – Plainsong – which I read many years ago (and even remembered!)  It was a little wink to the readers of his other work, and I felt like saluting him. This book was published posthumously, Haruf having died in 2014 at the age of seventy-one.

This is a simple, affirming, grown-up book.  I loved it.

My rating: 9.5 /10

Source: Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

4 responses to “‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf

  1. This book is a hugely memorable read and I have just chosen it as my bookclub read for the month. Haruf weaves magic into his books, I’m sure of it. Plainsong is perfect, Our Souls at Night is pretty close.

  2. I nearly bought this book recently. I haven’t heard one negative review of it, and like you, I really enjoyed Plainsong. I suspect we read it at the same time for the internet bookgroup we were in. That’s certainly why I read it anyhow.

    He has a lovely gentle, wise style.

  3. I adored this book too but have yet to read any of his backlist. I think most of his books are set in the same fictional town, which intrigues me.
    And like Sue, I have yet to hear of anyone who didn’t love this book – we certainly have sold a lot of it at our Indy bookshop after it was talked about on the ABC Bookclub.

  4. Pingback: ‘Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand’ by Helen Simonson | The Resident Judge of Port Phillip

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