Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night

4.2 34
by Kent Haruf, Alan Kent Haruf

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A Best Book of the Year 
The Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Denver Post

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


A Best Book of the Year 
The Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Denver Post

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, her son even farther, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? As Addie and Louis come to know each other better--their pleasures and their difficulties--a beautiful story of second chances unfolds, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer's enduring contribution to American literature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“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.” —Catherine Holmes, The Charleston Post and Courier

“A marvelous addition to his oeuvre. . . . spare but eloquent, bittersweet yet hopeful.” —Kurt Rabin, The Fredericksburg Freelance-Star

“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.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“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.” —Lynn Rosen, The Philadelphia Enquirer

“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.” —The New Yorker

“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.” —William J. Cobb, The Dallas Morning News

“A fine and poignant novel that demonstrates that our desire to love and to be loved does not dissolve with age. . . . The story speeds along, almost as if it's a page-turning mystery.” —Joseph Peschel, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“By turns amusing and sad, skipping-down-the-sidewalk light and pensive. . . .  I recommend reading it straight through, then sitting in quiet reflection of beautiful literary art.” —Fred Ohles, The Lincoln Journal Star

“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.” —Francesca Wade, Financial Times

“Haruf was knows as a great writer and teacher whose work will endure. . . . The cadence of this book is soft and gentle, filled with shy emotion, as tentative as a young person's first kiss—timeless in its beauty. . . . Addie and Louis find a type of love that, as our society ages, ever more people in the baby boom generation may find is the only kind of love that matters.” —Jim Ewing, The Jackson Clarion-Ledger

“There is so much wisdom in this beautifully pared-back and gentle book. . . a small, quiet gem, written in English so plain that it sparkles.” —Anne Susskind, The Sydney Morning Herald

“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.” —Joan Silber, The New York Times Book Review

“In a fitting and gorgeous end to a body of work that prizes resilience above all else, Haruf has bequeathed readers a map charting a future that is neither easy nor painless, but it’s also not something we have to bear alone.” —Esquire

“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.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Haruf spent a life making art from our blind collisions, and Our Souls at Night is a fitting finish.” —John Reimringer, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Haruf once again banishes doubts.  Our souls can surprise us.  Beneath the surface of reticent lives—and of Haruf’s calm prose—they prove unexpectedly brave.” —Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic

“Blunt, textured, and dryly humorous. . . this quietly elegiac novel caps a fine, late-blooming and tenacious writing career. . . . Haruf’s gift is to make hay of the unexpected, and it feels like a mercy. . . . This is a novel for just after sunset on a summer’s eve, when the sky is still light and there is much to see, if you are looking.” —Wingate Packard, The Seattle Times

“A parting gift [and] a reminder of how profoundly we will miss Holt and its people, and Kent Haruf's extraordinary writing.” —Sandra Dallas, The Denver Post

“Short, spare and moving...Our Souls at Night is already creating a stir.” —Jennifer Maloney, The Wall Street Journal

The New York Times Book Review - Joan Silber
Our Souls at Night has less grit than Eventide, with its Dickensian views of the lives of the poor, or Plainsong, where favorite characters draw relentless spite; its tone is milder and more melancholy. But the novel runs, like [Haruf's] others, on the dogged insistence that simple elements carry depth, and readers will find much to be grateful for.
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/02/2015
Within the first three pages of this gripping and tender novel, Addie Moore, a 70-year-old widow, invites her neighbor, Louis Waters, to sleep over. “No, not sex,” she clarifies. “I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably.” Although Louis is taken off guard, the urgency of Addie’s loneliness does not come across as desperate, and her logic will soon persuade him. She reasons that they’re both alone (Louis’s wife has also been dead for a number of years) and that, simply, “nights are the worst.” What follows is a sweet love story, a deep friendship, and a delightful revival of a life neither of them was expecting, all against the backdrop of a gossiping (and at times disapproving) small town. When Addie’s six-year-old grandson arrives for the summer, Addie and Louis’s relationship is tested but ultimately strengthened. Addie’s adult son’s judgment, however, is not so easily overcome. In this book, Haruf, who died in 2014, returns to the landscape and daily life of Holt County, Colo., where his previous novels (Plainsong, Eventide, The Tie That Binds) have also been set, this time with a stunning sense of all that’s passed and the precious importance of the days that remain. (May)
Library Journal
★ 04/01/2015
In this last novel written before his death in November 2014, acclaimed novelist Haruf (Benediction) captures small-town life to perfection in his signature spare style. Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbors in the eastern Colorado farming town of Holt for over 40 years. Now, alone except for visits from their grown children, Addie has asked Louis to come over every evening and to stay with her in bed, just to get through the lonely nights. Louis is not a risk taker, but he's lonely, too, and so begins their companionable routine, as they talk not only about trivial matters but also about important things in the past: his affair with a local teacher, her daughter's death at age 11. Unfortunately, Addie's bullying son Gene interferes. After leaving his son Jamie with Addie for the summer, during which time the troubled boy's behavior improves markedly, Gene sees what is going on and issues an ultimatum that forces Addie to make a difficult choice. VERDICT Haruf gives a delicate touch to Addie and Louis, their enjoyment of simple pleasures, their disappointments and compromises. Poignant and eloquent, this novel resonates beyond the pages. Don't miss this exceptional work from a literary voice now stilled. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/14.].—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO
Kirkus Reviews
A sweet love story about the twilight years. If Haruf (who died in November at age 71) hadn't titled his previous book Benediction (2013), that might have been perfect for this one. It's a slim novel of short chapters, and it would seem to bring the cycle of books about small-town Holt, Colorado, to a close. This isn't a dark night of the soul but one filled with hope and with second chances. Here's how it opens: "And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters." Addie is 70, a widow, and she was close with Louis' late wife. She and Louis don't really know each other that well, other than as nodding acquaintances, but she has a novel proposition: she wants him to sleep with her. Not to have sexual relations, but just to have someone with whom she can talk and share and make it through the night. He appreciates the risk she's taken in making the request, and he agrees, though on their first night he's filled with thoughts of "How strange this is. How new it is to be here. How uncertain I feel, and sort of nervous." Word gets out, and those who will gossip do, assuming the salacious details. Addie and Louis both have adult children who aren't enthusiastic about the arrangement. And they each have a back story about the sorts of disappointments and perseverance that mark any longstanding marriage. Through Addie's initiative, she and Louis find an emotional intimacy beyond anything either has previously known, and both come to recognize that they "deserve to be happy," no matter what friends and family think. The author even has a little metafictional fun with his premise, as the characters comment on those "made up" books about the (fictional) Holt and how they'd hate to be in one of them. Those who have been immersed in Holt since Plainsong(1999) will appreciate one last visit.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


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 settling in and out into the kitchen where there was a light shining over the sink and counters. It all looked clean and orderly. He was watching her. She was a good-­looking woman, he had always thought so. She’d had dark hair when she was younger, but it was white now and cut short. She was still shapely, only a little heavy at the waist and hips.

You probably wonder what I’m doing here, she said.

Well, I didn’t think you came over to tell me my house looks nice.

No. I want to suggest something to you.


Yes. A kind of proposal.


Not marriage, she said.

I didn’t think that either.

But it’s a kind of marriage-­like question. But I don’t know if I can now. I’m getting cold feet. She laughed a little. That’s sort of like marriage, isn’t it.

What is?

Cold feet.

It can be.

Yes. Well, I’m just going to say it.

I’m listening, Louis said.

I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.

What? How do you mean?

I mean we’re both alone. 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.

He stared at her, watching her, curious now, cautious.

You don’t say anything. Have I taken your breath away? she said.

I guess you have.

I’m not talking about sex.

I wondered.

No, not sex. I’m not looking at it that way. I think I’ve lost any sexual impulse a long time ago. I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably. Lying down in bed together and you staying the night. The nights are the worst. Don’t you think?

Yes. I think so.

I end up taking pills to go to sleep and reading too late and then I feel groggy the next day. No use at all to myself or anybody else.

I’ve had that myself.

But I think I could sleep again if there were someone else in bed with me. Someone nice. The closeness of that. Talking in the night, in the dark. She waited. What do you think?

I don’t know. When would you want to start?

Whenever you want to. If, she said, you want to. This week.

Let me think about it.

All right. But I want you to call me on the day you’re coming if that happens. So I’ll know to expect you.

All right.

I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

What if I snore?

Then you’ll snore, or you’ll learn to quit.

He laughed. That would be a first.

She stood and went out and walked back home, and he stood at the door watching her, this medium-­sized seventy-­year-­old woman with white hair walking away under the trees in the patches of light thrown out by the corner street lamp. What in the hell, he said. Now don’t get ahead of yourself.


The next day Louis went to the barber on Main Street and had his hair cut short and neat, a kind of buzz cut, and asked the barber if he still shaved people and the barber said he did, so he got a shave too. Then he went home and called Addie and said, I’d like to come over tonight if that’s still all right.

Yes, it is, she said. I’m glad.

He ate a light supper, just a sandwich and a glass of milk, he didn’t want to feel heavy and laden in her bed, and then he took a long hot shower and scrubbed himself thoroughly. He trimmed his fingernails and toenails and at dark he went out the back door and walked up the back alley carrying a paper sack with his pajamas and toothbrush inside. It was dark in the alley and his feet made a rasping noise in the gravel. A light was showing in the house across the alley and he could see the woman in profile there at the sink in the kitchen. He went on into Addie Moore’s backyard past the garage and the garden and knocked on the back door. He waited quite a while. A car drove by on the street out front, its headlights shining. He could hear the high school kids over on Main Street honking their horns at one another. Then the porch light came on above his head and the door opened.

What are you doing back here? Addie said.

I thought it would be less likely for people to see me.

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 that way anymore. The alley makes it seem we’re doing something wrong or something disgraceful, to be ashamed of.

I’ve been a schoolteacher in a little town too long, he said. That’s what it is. But all right. I’ll come by the front door the next time. If there is a next time.

Don’t you think there will be? she said. Is this just a one-­night stand?

I don’t know. Maybe. Minus the sex part of that, of course. I don’t know how this will go.

Don’t you have any faith? she said.

In you, I do. I can have faith in you. I see that already. But I’m not sure I can be equal to you.

What are you talking about? How do you mean that?

In courage, he said. Willingness to risk.

Yes, but you’re here.

Meet the Author

KENT HARUF is the author of five previous novels (and, with the photographer Peter Brown, West of Last Chance). His honors include a Whiting Foundation Writers’ Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award, the Wallace Stegner Award, and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation; he was also a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New Yorker Book Award. He died in November 2014, at the age of seventy-one. 

Brief Biography

South Central Mountains of Colorado
Date of Birth:
February 24, 1943
Place of Birth:
Pueblo, Colorado
B.A., Nebraska Wesleyan University, 1965; M.F.A., Iowa University (Writers' Workshop), 1973

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Our Souls at Night: A novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply and poignantly written of the magic, intimacy and fragility of love at life's maturity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you KENT HARUF for this final gift. This short book encompasses everything there is about being human. This thing called life is something we cannot do alone. I loved how brave but tender Addie was. She wants something so simple and human, someone to connect with, someone to whisper to in the dark. Louis Waters arrives not knowing quite what to expect. As soon as I closed the book I wanted to turn back to the first page and begin again. The book leaves you feeling blessed if you have that person to whisper to in the dark. The authors quiet, sparse text in this and his other novels does not pull one in as much as nudge you to join the journey. If you have not read Plainsong, Eventide and Benediction, I urge you to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I purchased it because I have read and savored all of Kent Haruf's books. It is a touching story that will stay with you long after you read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A story I could relate to being an older person alone. Very heart rendering but sad. I won't tell you the plot , it is sad at times. Great book you won't be sorry you ddid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. The characters seemed real and their struggles with family seemed familiar. The only setback for me was whether their family or friends would be that judgmental of their affair at this time in history? I think people would notice but not be that shocked about them seeing each other. I liked that they just wanted to connect. As an older person that is alone, it is a nice fantasy...to imagine someone to cuddle with and talk to when you need someone.
ReadingGrandmaTX More than 1 year ago
A glimpse into the author's thoughts toward his own final chapter. As his previous books do, he lets you into the every day lives of a few residents of Holt, CO. You feel as if you knew these people from a distance before. By the end, you know them a little better and realize you never really know someone. I will miss the people of this small town.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book took me right in from the beginning although it was at first difficult to decipher where quoting was not used. I loved the story of these companions; however, I did not like the way it ended....no spoiler here from me. Enjoyed this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this sweet but short book The ending felt disappointing but true
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It sounded a little scary at first but, it was not
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it but wanted it to last longer. Simple writing style that still manages to be vivid in detail so much that the characters will linger in my thoughts for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a soft, tender story. Haruf's death is a loss for all of us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting on a number of levels, how their relationship Develops, how the town reacts to it, how her family reacts. Their caring for each other and her grandson but her son's Negitive reactions. Great story really makes you think about What is important in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful and tender novel. Simple and yet so eloquent. J M Lydon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this very brief story.....and getting to the ending...im not even sure what the point of the story was. It was sweet in parts...predictable in others and almost a waste of reading because of the ending.
Joyce Larson More than 1 year ago
Older generation can relate to this story probably more than the younger generation. Story was about the loneliness of two elderly people (man and woman)and how they coped: lost relationships and the coming together of grandparents/grandchildren.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Y'all must have read a different book than I did. It was terrible! Don't waste your time!
Anonymous 8 months ago
Ending was sad it should have more meaning to their self happiness . They have little time left because of their age, it's time they have some quality time for themselves and not let anyone dictate to them how to live their life. The book should ha email ended with them getting married and to heck what anyone else thinks.
JoAnWMartin More than 1 year ago
JoAn W. Martin 2407 Kilgore Rd. Baytown, TX 77520 281 427-2713 Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, 2015, 136 pages Addie and Louis live in houses a block apart, on their own, the nights lonely with no one to talk to. They have known each other casually for years and both have lost their spouses. Addie walked over to Louis’ house one evening with a proposition for Louis. They sat and visited for a few minutes and Addie almost got cold feet. “Would you come to my house sometimes and sleep with me? No sex, just lying in bed and talking ‘til we get sleepy.” Louis went to the barbershop and got a haircut and a shave, put his pajamas and a toothbrush in a paper sack and went the next night. He slipped around to the back door and knocked. Addie insisted he use the front door. She intended to live her own life and not care what people said. Of course there was gossip, but they talked about their marriages, their families, their lives. It was a happy solution to their isolated lives. Addie felt obligated to keep her six-year-old grandson for the summer. Life became somewhat complicated, but Jamie loved them both and eventually became happy living there. Their struggles with family seemed familiar. Their family and friends were sadly judgmental of the situation at this time in Louis and Addie’s lives. When Addie’s son found out what was going on, he thought he could tell his mother how to live. The writing style is simple, but the author manages to show vivid details that bring the characters in the small town to life. Addie wanted something so trouble-free, someone to connect with. Her courage is inspiring. She took steps to access the intimacy of love at life’s maturity. It is a touching story that you will continue to think about after the last page: a soft, tender reflection on what is important in life.
Yinrapids More than 1 year ago
Please do not let this book go unread. It is an awesome "feel good" book. If ever there was a "Calgon - take me away book" this is it. It is without a doubt a fun book to read. The feelings will stay with you throughout the book and afterwards as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A simple, yet simply lovely story.
Buffalojim More than 1 year ago
First off--I have read all of Kent's books and had an email and phone friendship with him prior to his death. I am still in touch with his wife Cathy, but I tend to be honest and clear with my reviews as I dislike people writing glowing accounts of books that are not that glowing. Of course, each reader finds something different in a book. The elderly protagonists appealed to me because according to statistics, I am elderly and I have friends in that category. I can relate to the protagonists and the antagonist is right in line with what a son would require of his mother, albeit one sided. Kent wrote this as he was dying. The ending is not a happy one, but it is realistic. I read it in two evenings. It will go on my signed Kent Haruf novel shelf as the only unsigned one. If you have read other Haruf novels, you will like this one a lot. If you haven't, don't start with this one. Start with Plainsong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I listened to the audio version and hung on every piece of dialog. It was so honest and typical of conversations with middle age folks. Loved the tender and bittersweet story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dirtlane More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. I wonder if he did finish the book. Mr. Haruf passed away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago