BookBrowse Reviews One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

One Night Two Souls Went Walking

by Ellen Cooney

One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen   Cooney X
One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen   Cooney
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Nov 2020, 216 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
Buy This Book

About this Book



Ruminative yet understated, this beguiling novel explores the fine line between life and death, and the elusive nature of the human soul.

In One Night Two Souls Went Walking, we follow a young interfaith chaplain as she carries out her nightly duties on a hospital ward, easing patients through their final moments and comforting loved ones in their newfound grief. She was drawn to the job through her fascination with the concept of souls – how they are formed, where they reside, and whether or not they ever truly leave. Though not hugely plot driven, we do see glimpses of the ways her unwavering dedication to this role has impacted her personal relationships, and through subtle hints of magical realism, the emotional toll it can take to so often be forced to say goodbye.

Despite the melancholy subject matter, the novel has a gentle quality that mirrors the narrator's characterization. That said, Cooney hints at a complexity beyond simple kindness, showing us the white lies she is often compelled to tell in order to ease the woes of the dying so they may pass in peace. It's here that the author throws up the biggest philosophical questions, though never in a way that feels dry. In their final moments, patients wish to metaphorically bear their souls: some seek comfort, some wish to be absolved of guilt, while others simply need permission to let go. But almost all wish to reflect on the people and moments that meant the most to them in life. Is it this then – the lives we've lived and the memories we've made – that amalgamate to form the essence of who we are? Or is the soul a more literal entity that drifts free of our bodies when we die, perhaps even watching over those we've left behind? The book flirts with the uncanny just enough to suggest the possibility of the latter, but always remains grounded by the gravity of the chaplain's work.

The repetition of meeting a character, learning their history, and saying goodbye to them as they pass on certainly captures how relentless and emotionally taxing the chaplain's work is, but it also means the novel can feel somewhat fragmented at times, reading more like a collection of interlinked short stories. At first, it can be frustrating to lose enigmatic characters just as we begin to feel invested in them; to so quickly have the focus shift to someone else. But when you consider how closely this reflects the reality of the chaplain's situation, you realize what a clever structural device it is.

It is quite the achievement for a book to take on themes as huge as humanity, memory and faith while remaining so intimate in tone and scope. For all the theories on the true nature of the soul it poses – and the interesting debates these interpretations are likely to spark – the book remains certain of one thing: what unites us all in death is a desire not to feel alone. Though it may come at great personal cost, it is the gift of companionship the chaplain is determined to give to all those who ask it of her.

Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin

This review is from the One Night Two Souls Went Walking. It first ran in the November 18, 2020 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Animal Assisted Therapy

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Dog Flowers
    Dog Flowers
    by Danielle Geller
    In Dog Flowers, Danielle Geller tells us what is wrong with her family: heavy drinking, abandonment,...
  • Book Jacket: The Sea Gate
    The Sea Gate
    by Jane Johnson
    In Jane Johnson's novel, The Sea Gate, set in England, readers are introduced to Becky, a young ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from Suffragette City
    Stories from Suffragette City
    by M.J. Rose, Fiona Davis
    Our First Impressions readers were fascinated by the historical fiction from a range of authors ...
  • Book Jacket: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    by Marie Benedict
    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, notable author of previous historical fiction such ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Narrowboat Summer
    by Anne Youngson

    From the author of Meet Me at the Museum, a charming novel of second chances.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    At the Edge of the Haight
    by Katherine Seligman

    Winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Moment of Lift
by Melinda Gates
How can we summon a moment of lift for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.
Who Said...

Harvard is the storehouse of knowledge because the freshmen bring so much in and the graduates take so little out.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

T M T C, T M T Stay T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.