Spare, clean, and beautifully wrought, Our Souls At Night is a dollop of Kent Haruf’s signature prose but just as evocative and heavy as Plainsong, Eventide or Benediction. If you’ve read those three, don’t miss this one.
This last entry from Haruf may look slight. It’s 179 pint-size pages. Don’t let that fool you. It’s got as much weight and grounded pathos as the others. It’s as if Haruf truly figured out the “less is more” magic.
It took me a long time to get around to it—and I’m extremely glad I “read” it on audio. In print, Haruf doesn’t use quote marks. I don’t mind that (too much), but narrator Mark Bramhall’s easy, matter-of-fact recording is so good, well, why not take this one in your ears? It’s as if Haruf is sitting there reading you a story.
The ingredients here are simple. Addie Moore reaches out to a neighbor, Louis Waters. She’s a widow. He’s a widower. “I mean, we’re both alone,” she says. “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.” Addie says she is talking about “getting through the night.”
I knew the general premise going in and I was prepared for long chats between these two—reflections and ponderings and musings. Uh, wrong. Our Souls At Night is well-populated and busy. Addie and Louis drive around—to Denver or nearby towns on the eastern plains of Colorado—and interact with relatives. Addie shakes off town gossip. Louis prefers to keep their relationship on the down-low, but slowly comes around.
Haruf’s gentle, sing-song prose propels the story with a gentle hand. His style glides like an old rocking chair. “At midweek they packed Louis’s pickup and drove west up out of the plains toward the mountains, watching the mountains rise up higher as they got closer to the Front Range, the dark forested lower foothills and farther back the white peaks above tree line still with patches of snow even in July, and drove onto U.S. Highway 50 and went through the few towns.”
When Haruf stopped by my blog in 2013, he said this: “I don’t want to call attention to the writing—to me, that’s a mistake. John Gardner had that idea about putting your reader into a narrative dream and anything that stirs the reader out of that dream is a mistake.”
Haruf fully succeeds at that goal in Our Souls at Night. (Full interview here.)
Two real people growing old in a small town—thinking back, looking ahead, imagining what might have been. I’ll be interested to see how the movie comes out. Redford and Fonda are fine, but I wish the folks in Hollywood could make a movie with regular people. That’s all Haruf seemed to care about—regular people figuring out how to get along.