Kent Haruf’s “Our Souls at Night” is a short, sweet story about the cycle of life. The main two characters are a widow (Addie) and a widower (Louis) in their 70s who, in an unlikely scenario, find each other and develop a slow moving romance. As the characters get to know each other and reveal their past lives, the intensity of the story creeps up on you under cover of Haruf’s simple straight-forward style of writing. What starts out seeming like a simple friendship reveals the complexity of human nature and our desire for love, companionship and acceptance, even when we try to turn our back on those seemingly conventional needs.
Addie and Louis disclose to each other the most personal aspects of their lives, including the sentiments behind Louis’ extra marital affair and the isolation of Addie’s marriage. “Our Souls at Night” confirms that everyone has a story to tell and life never turns out exactly as planned or anticipated. Louis, a retired high school teacher, reveals to Addie that he had wanted to be a poet. But his wife did not support his ambition and Louis reflected that he thought “she was jealous of my feeling about it and about the time it took me away to myself, being isolated and private.” Addie muses about never having found a career passion, commenting that “Not everybody finds out what they really want.” And later, discussing past failures and regrets, Addie wonders, “Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if any at all.”
Through the developing relationship of Addie and Louis the book addresses everyday life anxieties, hopes, challenges and concerns and reassures us that such experiences are not unique. The story’s poignant ending reminds us how quickly life can change when family conflicts with self. The book is almost a complete success except for a rather annoying and superfluous reference to Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy toward the end of the book. If you are looking for a simply written, easy to read meaning of life story, this very short, very fast book is the one for you.
You can reserve this book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/mobile/record/C__Rb11150048?lang=eng.