by Kent Haruf
One spring evening, Addie Moore makes a surprise visit to Louis Waters. She is a seventy-year old widow who has been alone for twenty years; he is around the same age, and also a widower of many years. Addie and Louis have been neighbors for over forty years, although they’ve never known each other very well. But on this particular May evening, Addie makes a proposal to Louis –
“I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me,” she asks him.
Louis, of course, is taken by surprise and is not sure what to say. Finally, he agrees to think about it. Gathering his nerve, he goes to Addie’s house the following evening. And so begins a tender budding relationship. It wasn’t about sex – sex isn’t even what either of them was after. It was about having suffered loneliness for far too long – and loneliness is always worse at night. Addie’s and Louis’s sleeping together was about companionship, about not being alone.
Their first few nights together are hesitant and tentative, but as they lie in the dark together talking and getting to know one another, sharing old sorrows and regrets and hopes, they grow more at ease with each other, and an intimate friendship and affection takes root.
In the small town of Holt, Colorado, the fictional setting of all of Kent Haruf’s novels, word gets around quickly that Louis is visiting Addie at night. Some of the townspeople disapprove, and some approve wholeheartedly. Complicating matters further, Addie’s son Gene, who is in an unstable marriage of his own, dumps his six-year old son on Addie for the summer. Addie adores her grandson, and Louis and the young boy become quite attached to each other over the summer as well. But when Gene discovers the relationship between Louis and Addie – which has grown past the point of furtive nighttime visits, and into a friendship that is carried on in broad daylight, and which is teetering on the precipice of romantic love – he is determined to put a stop to it.
Like all of Haruf’s other novels, Our Souls At Night is short in pages but long in heart. This is a very poignant and tender story of loneliness, loss, and second chances. I can’t say that I found the ending satisfying, but the story overall is a jewel. It’s certainly worth the read in its own right, but especially if you’re a Kent Haruf fan, it’s a must read. I was very sad to learn that Mr. Haruf died, and that I’ve now read everything he will ever write.