Book Review: Our Souls at Night
Ever since I read Plainsong, I’ve been a fan of Kent Haruf. Plainsong is a novel that has stayed with me for nearly twenty years—in part because of its
no-nonsense prose, its sweeping landscape, but also because of Haruf’s control as a writer, and because of his tenderness toward his characters.
Haruf died in 2014, but just before his death he finished Our Souls at Night, which I think is his finest novel. With writing so spare it leaves no room for equivocation, Haruf fully renders the lives of Addie Moore and Louis Waters—seventy-ish neighbors who fall upon an unexpected friendship. Just as Haruf uses the Colorado towns he grew up in as landscape for his novels (particularly his trilogy of Plainsong, Eventide, and Benediction), he also uses the landscape of his second marriage as material for his final novel. Addie and Louis, both divorced, both lonely, find solace in each other in an unusual and touching way. These are people you will want to spend time with, people you will root for, people you will love. This is not a whiz-bang novel. It’s a slow, quiet opening of friendship that will grab you by the heart and not let go.
Haruf was born with a cleft lip and, as he says in an essay, he “learned to live completely inwardly.” It is that self-containment, I think, that makes Haruf such an astute observer of life.