Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Review published on June 27, 2017.

Well, this one I really did read at one sitting, although it kept me up until 12.15 am to finish it.

70-year-old Addie has been a widow for some time. She asks her widower neighbour, Louis, if he’d consider coming over to her house sometimes to sleep with her.

“What?” says Louis, naturally a bit taken aback. “How do you mean?”
“I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.”

If only it were that simple to solve the problem of loneliness in old age, I hear you say – but hold off. Mr Haruf takes his intriguing premise and quietly develops it as a coherent and believable coming together. Gradually, we learn of their former partners’ strengths and weaknesses and they are entirely candid about their respective parts in their life stories.

They weather the storms of small town nosiness – and prejudice, including family; life has new meaning for both of them. Until, that is, Addie’s grandson is ‘parked’ with her while her son and his wife work out their marital problems. Even this conundrum is assimilated into their arrangement with the addition of a dog.

Too good to be true? Well, yes and no. There’s a twist which I’m obviously not going to reveal and it left me feeling sad the first time I read it and happy when I reread it. What is remarkable is the way Kent Haruf negotiates the emotional landscape so realistically that you end up willing it to continue.

This author was completely unknown to me until Jackie Gethin and Joanne Booy – reliable reviewers both – put him on my radar. And I happily concur with their high ratings. The only downside is that Kent died in 2014 leaving only six books, which are now on my TBR list.

Guy Pringle 5/5

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Picador 9781447299370 pbk May 2016

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