Summary and book reviews of Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night

by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2015, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2016, 192 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf's inimitable fiction, 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.

Their brave adventures - their pleasures and their difficulties - are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer's enduring contribution to American literature.

1

And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters. It was an evening in May just before full dark.

They lived a block apart on Cedar Street in the oldest part of town with elm trees and hackberry and a single maple grown up along the curb and green lawns running back from the sidewalk to the two?—?story houses. It had been warm in the day but it had turned off cool now in the evening. She went along the sidewalk under the trees and turned in at Louis's house.

When Louis came to the door she said, Could I come in and talk to you about something?

They sat down in the living room. Can I get you something to drink? Some tea?

No thank you. I might not be here long enough to drink it. She looked around. Your house looks nice.

Diane always kept a nice house. I've tried a little bit.

It still looks nice, she said. I haven't been in here for years.

She looked out the windows at the side yard where the night was ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Our Souls at Night, the final novel from acclaimed author Kent Haruf

Questions and Topics for Discussion
  1. What does the title mean?
  2. The novel begins with the word "and": "And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters." What do you imagine came before it?
  3. Kent Haruf was known for using simple, spare language to create stories of great depth. How does the modest action in Our Souls at Night open onto larger insights about getting older?
  4. It takes a considerable amount of courage for a woman of Addie's generation to invite a man she hardly knows to sleep in her bed....
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Catherine Holmes, The Charleston Post and Courier

More Winesburg that Mayberry, Holt and its residents are shaped by physical solitude and emotional reticence... Haruf’s fiction ratifies ordinary, nonflashy decency, but he also knows that even the most placid lives are more complicated than they appear from the outside... The novel is a plainspoken, vernacular farewell.

Kurt Rabin, The Fredericksburg Freelance-Star

A marvelous addition to his oeuvre... spare but eloquent, bittersweet yet hopeful.

John Freeman, The Boston Globe

Lateness—and second chances—have always been a theme for Haruf. But here, in a book about love and the aftermath of grief, in his final hours, he has produced his most intense expression of that yet... Packed into less than 200 pages are all the issues late life provokes.

Lynn Rosen, The Philadelphia Enquirer

A fitting close to a storied career, a beautiful rumination on aging, accommodation, and our need to connect... As a meditation on life and forthcoming death, Haruf couldn’t have done any better. He has given us a powerful, pared-down story of two characters who refuse to go gentle into that good night

The New Yorker

A delicate, sneakily devastating evocation of place and character... Haruf’s story accumulates resonance through carefully chosen details; the novel is quiet but never complacent.

William J. Cobb, The Dallas Morning News

Elegiac, mournful and compassionate... a triumphant end to an inspiring literary career [and] a reminder of a loss on the American cultural landscape, as well as a parting gift from a master storyteller.

Joan Silber, The New York Times Book Review

His great subject was the struggle of decency against small-mindedness, and his rare gift was to make sheer decency a moving subject. . . . [This] novel runs on the dogged insistence that simple elements carry depths, and readers will find much to be grateful for.

Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Utterly charming [and] distilled to elemental purity... such a tender, carefully polished work that it seems like a blessing we had no right to expect.

Francesca Wade, Financial Times

Haruf is never sentimental, and the ending—multiple twists packed into the last twenty pages—is gritty, painful and utterly human. . . . His novels are imbued with an affection and understanding that transform the most mundane details into poetry. Like the friendly light shining from Addie’s window, Haruf’s final novel is a beacon of hope; he is sorely missed.

Reader Reviews

Judith Bates

Knowing Love
This is a short book, only 179 pages, and it is Kent Haruf's last book before he passed away and, of course, it takes place in Holt, Colorado. I think this is the best of his books,, although they are all good! It is a story about two senior people...   Read More

mary

our souls at night
Very good book. It will bring forth a good discussion for our book group.

CarolK

The Power of Touch
The premise of Our Souls At Night grabbed my attention. I’ve been married 45 years and can easily count the nights I have not slept in the same bed with my husband. As we age we think more about the inevitable parting that will come. I could easily ...   Read More

Diane S.

Our souls at night
Once again, or rather from the last time, we return to Holt, in another simply told narrative, featuring ordinary people that are doing something less than ordinary. This is always where Haruf's talents were so admirably displayed. He took the ...   Read More

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