Our Souls at Night (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Kent Haruf, Alan Kent Haruf
Paperback- $11.08

A Best Book of the Year 
The Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Denver Post

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to ...

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  "Poignant tale about loneliness!" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 06/23/15

I was attracted to this book for many reasons, not the least of them being that my husband shares a name with Louis, although it is spelled differently. Another reason is that I am a senior citizen who has often contemplated the loneliness that would come in the years ahead for one or another of us. Then, too, Haruf was the same age as the characters, which made the story even more poignant . He understood their feelings very well having just received a diagnosis of a terminal illness. His wife would shortly be left alone.
This is a truly touching story about two older adults, a widow and a widower, who live alone. They have no one to talk to at night except themselves. To solve this problem of loneliness and isolation, 70 year old Addie Moore has an idea. She visits Louis Waters and makes him a proposal. How would he feel about coming to her house to sleep with her, just as friends, for conversation, not for sex? Louis decides to think about it, and she tells him, all right, just call her and let her know if he agrees. They live within easy walking distance of each other, but they were not close friends as couples when their spouses were alive. Although Addie was friendly with Diane, Louis’ wife, Louis did not really know her husband, Carl. Addie explained that she was lonely and really just wanted to have some company to share ideas with, before she falls asleep. She believed that he was lonely too.
Louis decides to go to the barber and clean himself up. Then he makes the call. He goes over to Addie’s house, at first, through the back door, shy and embarrassed, but later on, through the front entrance. Their meeting is a bit awkward, but after they spend the night together, they bravely soldier on and he makes repeat visits to her nightly. In the beginning, their conversation falters a bit, but then it grows more natural as they confide their secrets to each other, sometimes with unnecessary critical judgment. They have both made missteps in their life that have had serious repercussions. Soon, however, they grow closer and more comfortable with each other and more comfortable in their own skins. Their banter is charming and innocent as they begin to explore life again as they talk. They are both genuinely happy to have each other’s company. When the gossips begin rattling their tongues, they defy them and begin to blatantly appear in public. They no longer care what people think because they care about each other, and they are old enough to have earned the right to ignore the gossip.
When Addie’s son’s marriage and dying business catapult him into a no man’s land, he sends his son to spend the summer with Addie. She and Louis approach him tenderly and slowly and both learn to appreciate his presence and his sadness. He is lonely too. They love him and engage him in activities to keep his mind off his troubles. He misses both his parents. They miss their spouses. The young and old have similar needs.
Addie’s son is the fly in the ointment. He disrupts this happy picture . He disapproves of their immoral behavior and demands an end to their relationship. He is sure that Louis is after her money and nothing more. It seems more likely that her son was worried about his share of an inheritance. He was rude and very unkind to Louis. His threats to cut himself and Jamie out of her life weaken Addie’s resolve. This woman, who had been so brave at first, became so frightened of losing her family and being totally alone, that she ends her relationship with Louis. Although Louis wanted to become her family, for her, she knew that if anything happened to him, her son and grandson would be all she would have left with whom to share her life. If they cut her off, she would be lost.
Oddly, while all are lonely, the one who seemed to hold the cards and control the situation was the one who shouldn’t have had a card in his hand. Her son Gene was still, decades later, harboring guilt about his sister’s death and lack of fatherly affection. He was very self-absorbed. Should Addie have defied his demands which were so heartless? She and Louis were, after all, providing for all of each other’s needs and both were happy and content. Each of them, Addie, Jamie, and Louis brought something into the relationship that made them grow. Even the older, formerly abused dog whom Louis insisted they adopt, Bonnie, played a role. She taught Jamie how to return affection and trust again, as Louis and Addie had just begun to do with each other. The dog was disabled slightly, physically, as the older adults seemed to be emotionally. The boy made Louis and Addie young again as they helped Jamie grow stronger and more mature.
The book beautifully captured the state of mind and home life of the elderly who live alone, and also the confusion that a child endures when parents no longer share marital bliss, and as a byproduct, also the loss of a parent by any means. For the elderly, their lives grow emptier and emptier as their friends, spouses, relatives, and children pass on or move away. For the child, their world narrows, as well, when parents separate and they have to learn to live with only one, as they often move away from their comfort zone, have to make new friends, live in a new neighborhood and home and go to a new school. This narrative allows the reader to experience their lives and watch them as they work through their problems. It is a lovely tale of love and friendship that twists and turns through the different phases of life, and in some cases, it becomes very bittersweet.
When Louis introduces Jamie to some abandoned baby mice, Jamie discovers that they, too, are motherless and needy. He watches them grow, but soon they move on to live their lives someplace else, which is an important lesson for him to learn. Everyone needs someone to care for them and help them, but one day, everyone moves on. The story guides us through the full circle of life. We are born weak and helpless and we most likely will die in that same way. Using mundane, everyday situations, Haruf often imparts a message with profound meaning. Casual conversations reveal important details about the lives of the characters. There is sadness in the book because what was once a hopeful moment in life, becomes one of grief and loneliness again, but there is beauty in the message of love and companionship.
Who made the right decision about their relationship, Addie or Louis? Would it have been better if one or the other stood up to Gene, Addie’s son? His behavior was rude. Parents bring children into the world and share their lives. The children provide comfort, company and structure in much the same way as the parent does. Year later, children move on. As parents, we start out alone, before children; we end up alone, after they leave. Should children assume the role of parent to their parent, in order to provide structure for them, or should they allow them the freedom to make their own decisions, to muddle through without interfering except in regards to safety? They often misinterpret situations with their young eyes and often seek to merely protect their inheritance without understanding the true needs of their parents and they treat their parents like little children, condescending rather than respecting their concerns. This book clearly shines a light on all of the moments of family life complete with its tragedies and celebrations, its failures and successes, its joys and its heartbreaks. It is wonderful even with its moments of gloom.

  "Our Souls at Night." by Mairpac (see profile) 08/04/15

The title caught my attention as did the synopsis of a widow and widower neighbors getting to know one another. Being a senior I looked forward to their journey together .. other than the heartwarming visit from the widow\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s grandson the book is as one might expect ...because of family demands both charactters were left even lonlier. I couldn\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'t recommend this book to anyone.

  "Our Souls at Night" by 123books (see profile) 10/14/15

I enjoyed this book immensely. I liked the way the author writes so much that I check out some of his other books. This was an inspiring and beautiful story about aging and companionship.

  "Our Souls At Night" by streeter (see profile) 10/29/15

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The writing consists of short sentences and conversations that are so meaningful. I highly recommend this book to anyone!!!

  "Kent Haruf" by ThePageTurners (see profile) 12/18/15

Kent Haruf's writing is very unique and captivating. I read Plainsong and The Ties that bind several yrs ago and I still remember so much about those titles.
His books are real and stay with you for a long time after you have finished reading. His characters are flawed and likeable despite their faults. The stories are simple and true.

  "" by karenatracey (see profile) 12/18/15

  "A real look at seniors" by carolkaskin (see profile) 01/21/16

The thing my book club liked best about OUR SOULS AT NIGHT is its realistic look at seniors and their need for intimacy. What we liked least was how Addie's need for her grandson's security dictated how intimate she could be with Louis.

  "Bittersweet" by Loveybook (see profile) 08/18/16

A beloved author's last book is a perfect read for mature women.

  "Our Souls at Night " by nbaker (see profile) 10/04/16

This was a very quick read (2 hours max) and for the moment, I am undecided on its affect on me. It was a beautiful story of finding friendship, companionship, and maybe even love in the Winter season of your life. Two neighbors, alone, feeling the loss of their spouses for several years, take a stand and agree to meet each night at Maddie's house. The meeting isn't of a sexual nature, isn't for physical pleasure -- just merely a hand to hold to help get a person through the night -- mere human conversation, the sound of another's breathing to confirm that one isn't alone. A touching story that was a pleasure to read and yet I got frustrated that the author gave Addie such a strong character, someone who wasn't afraid of what others said or thought and yet didn't let her stand up to her own grown son -- who was rude, inconsiderate, judgmental and totally out of line in his words to his Mother. (Can you tell I didn't like him?) This gross fault in her written character kept me from truly accepting her or the story in its entirety.

I hate to even nag about this, but my biggest peeve about this book is that it comes across as one HUGE conversation and yet nowhere in the story are there any quotation marks. (A silly thing I know, but irritating, nonetheless.) You had to pay close attention to follow who was doing the talking at times. I know that punctuation and/or grammar shouldn't make or break a story, but I really had a hard time getting past this intentional oversight.

  "" by bayleaf (see profile) 12/01/16

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  "Reading this book was too much work" by ebach (see profile) 02/10/17

Although OUR SOULS AT NIGHT appears to be a quick read because it is a short book, it is not. That is, the book seems much longer than it is. Even a slow reader like me should be able to finish such a short book in less than a day. But no. I looked for excuses to put it down. The end did not come soon enough.

OUR SOULS AT NIGHT has an interesting beginning. Addie proposes to her neighbor, Louis, that they keep each other company in bed at night. From there, the book continues: something happens, then something else happens, then something else happens, then something else happens, etc. It’s not much of a story.

But the story does seem to try to anger the reader a couple of times. Instead, though, I was angry with the author for writing such ridiculousness: Addie’s and Louis’s adult children reprimanding them, both in their 70s, for wanting to be together at night. RIDICULOUS!

To make matters worse, Haruf uses punctuation marks sparingly and quotation marks not at all. Why do some authors do that, regress to the time before people thought readability was important enough to invent those marks? I usually read for enjoyment. Reading this book was too much work.

  "" by kimkatzmom (see profile) 04/08/17

  "" by KisaVal (see profile) 05/24/17

Beautifully written and touching

  "our souls at night" by Carolynr (see profile) 05/27/17

I would give this a three and a half. while i loved the realistic issues in the story, I agree with some reviewers: i find it difficult to believe someone would invite someone into such personal space as bed , as a beginning to get to know each other. And I strongly disliked the writing of dialogue without quotation marks. I found it difficult to read. If you can' get past those two pieces, the story line and the issues it addresses make for a simple, yet effective story.

Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. So she invites hi to share her bed so they would have someone to talk to. Their pattern gets disrupted when Addie's son asks her to take in her grandson for the summer.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/18/17

  "The Loneliness is worse at night... " by bmedvid (see profile) 08/24/17

I am a fan of Kent Haruf’s novels, particularly the Plainsong series set in Holt Colorado. This novel had escaped my attention until I saw a preview for the movie that will be based upon it. I was excited to see Jane Fonda and Robert Redford starring in the movie and thought - this is a must read before seeing the movie.

I was not disappointed. The book is written in a conversational style without quotation marks or attribution. At times I found it difficult to determine who was speaking. However, it is definitely worth the effort. The story focuses on the later stages of a widow’s and widower’s lives and how they meet their needs, particularly loneliness, versus the opinions, judgments, and expectations of their adult children and the town people. Haruf’s characters are treated with his typical gentle kindness and insight. I found Our Souls At Night to be a quiet, comforting, and touching story. I enjoyed the presentation of the simple things in life and the companionship/experiences of a couple during their golden years.

I was surprised by the ending of the story. The decisions made by Addie felt out of character to me and were disappointing. I could understand them, and perhaps they were realistic, but I definitely did not like them. The end came quickly, felt rushed compared to the first half of the book, and ultimately made me sad. However, even with the ending, I found this to be a delightful and beautiful story filled with wisdom and love. It is one I will reflect on for a while and recommend to others. I was sorry to find out that this is also Haruf’s last novel, but it does seem somehow fitting. After reading this, I can’t wait to see the movie adaptation of this book.

  "Unforgettable characters" by cbridges (see profile) 09/24/17

In this quick little read, Haruf has managed, in the sparsest prose, to make Addie & Louis come to live in our hearts. These two 70+ year olds find companionship in it's truest form while facing narrow minded family and neighbors. I could have finished this book and started it all over again...loved it that much!

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  "Our Souls at Night" by bkmnmpl (see profile) 10/17/19

Kent Haruf makes the reader ponder if we are ever really too old for romance. This simply-told story made me look at late-in-life relationships in a whole new way. I highly recommend this title for those who appreciate a quiet love story.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/20/21

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