Our Souls at Night

There are certain things that we all find universally disgusting. These things include:

— The stuff that comes out of blackheads

— A newborn baby’s first “tarry” poo


And, of course:

— Old-people sex

More power to you if you’re still doing it, old people. But I would rather not hear—or think—about it. The liver spots, the old moans, the flappy skin, the jiggly upper-arms. Let’s face it: it’s a mental image that is not particularly sexy.

So, when my aunt suggested that I read a book about two seventy-somethings who embark on a nighttime relationship, I was a bit wary. Thankfully, the illusions to old-people sex are few and vague.

Our Souls at Night
Kent Haruf
Published May 26, 2015
181 pages (Kindle e-book)

What it’s about: Addie is a seventy-year-old widow who lives in small, gossipy Holt County, Colorado. One day, she visits her widower neighbor, Louis, with a proposition: “I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me. [. . .] 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.”

The next day, Louis knocks on Addie’s back door after dark with a paper bag containing his toothbrush and pajamas. He’s trying to be discreet. But Addie says, “I don’t care about that. They’ll know. Someone will see. Come by the front door out on the front sidewalk. I made up my mind I’m not going to pay attention to what people think. I’ve done that too long—all my life. I’m not going to live like that anymore.”

Thus begins a friendship (that blossoms into a romance) filled with honest and intimate conversation that is more fulfilling than either Addie or Louis expected. But it is not without its challenges. They must face the town’s gossip, navigate their relationship when Addie’s six-year-old grandson unexpectedly comes to stay with her for the summer, and attempt to deal with Addie’s son’s disapproval.

Why I read it: This book was recommended to me on the blog by my Aunt Ann. It was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for June 2015, the #1 Indie Next List pick for June 2015, and a LibraryReads List selection for May 2015. But the real selling point for me (despite the subject matter)? It’s under 200 pages long! Now, that’s my kind of book.

Rating: 3.5/5

It’s no secret that I like short books. When done well, they are concise and compact. There’s no added filler. There are no long, flowery descriptions. They make you think a little bit more. They pack a punch.

This book is a great example of a short book done well. Each conversation is pared down to its essence and lets you know something more about Addie or Louis, their circumstances, their personalities, and their motivations. Haruf’s word choices and syntax decisions (like the opening sentence: “And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”) encourage you to think beyond what is written on the page.

But this book is not without its faults. The dialogue annoyed me, because Haruf doesn’t use quotation marks. Ever. The purposeful and blatant failure to follow basic rules of punctuation is one of my MASSIVE pet peeves. Quotation marks make dialogue much easier to read, people. I say, “Let’s all agree to use them. Please and thank you.” 

When my aunt recommended this book, she warned that it is “probably a book for old folks,” and she’s absolutely right. That’s not to say that “young folks” (I flatter/fool myself by suggesting that I belong to that category anymore) can’t appreciate or enjoy it. I just think it would be more touching for those with a bit more life experience. It deals with subject matter (loneliness and companionship as you get older, reflecting on a life’s worth of experiences, dealing with the deaths of people close to you, making choices and sacrifices for your family) that would be particularly poignant if you had dealt with (or were in the position to deal with) similar stuff.

This book reminded me in many ways of Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (which, interestingly, I recommended to my aunt a couple years ago): it is concise, not very uplifting, reflects on age/growing older, and would not be appreciated as much by youngsters. If you enjoyed The Sense of an Ending, you should add this book to your TBR list posthaste (and vice versa).

Mom, you’d like this one.

Coming up:

  •  The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (an Amazon Best Book of the Month for August 2013). This one had been sitting idly on my Kindle for approximately two and a half years. Let’s just say that, so far, I’m not kicking myself for failing to read it sooner.
  • Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley (a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015, one of Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2015, and the #1 Kids’ Next List pick for Summer 2015). A kids’ book about a magical circus? I’m hoping for Harry Potter meets The Night Circus. Count me in!

2 thoughts on “Our Souls at Night

  1. I’m adding this to my reading list! I think I would really enjoy it. Thank you for your review!

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