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A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.
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 in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.
Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.90(d)|
About 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.
Hometown:South Central Mountains of Colorado
Date of Birth:February 24, 1943
Place of Birth:Pueblo, Colorado
Education:B.A., Nebraska Wesleyan University, 1965; M.F.A., Iowa University (Writers' Workshop), 1973
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Our Souls at Night, the final novel from acclaimed author Kent Haruf.
1. What does the title mean?
2. The novel begins with the word “and”: “And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.” What do you imagine came before it?
3. Kent Haruf was known for using simple, spare language to create stories of great depth. How does the modest action in Our Souls at Night open onto larger insights about getting older?
4. It takes a considerable amount of courage for a woman of Addie’s generation to invite a man she hardly knows to sleep in her bed. What do you think propelled her to do it?
5. When Louis comes over for the first time, he knocks on her back door in the name of discretion. Addie says, “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” (8). How does her attitude influence Louis’s?
6. Both Louis and Addie have to contend with gossip about their relationship. Who handles it better?
7. What does Addie’s friendship with Ruth show us about Addie’s character?
8. Addie and Louis both had troubled marriages, but stayed married until their partners died. How does that sense of propriety, of loyalty, influence their relationship with each other?
9. In describing his affair, Louis says, “I think I regret hurting Tamara more than I do hurting my wife. I failed my spirit or something” (42). What does he mean by this?
10. Why did Addie refuse to move after Connie’s death? How did this decision color Gene’s reaction to his mother’s late-in-life love affair?
11. On page 52, Louis describes his relationship with Addie to his daughter, “It’s some kind of decision to be free. Even at our ages.” Why does he feel freer with Addie than he does alone? How does his behavior become more uninhibited as the novel progresses?
12. How does Jamie’s arrival deepen the connection between Addie and Louis?
13. When Louis confesses that he wanted to be a poet, what effect does it have on Addie’s opinion of him? And on your opinion?
14. Addie and Louis both have regrets about the way they raised their children. How does that influence their relationship with Jamie?
15. Why did Addie buy new clothes for her trips to Denver that she never wears in Holt? What signal does it send to the reader?
16. On page 145, Addie mentions the Denver Center for the Performing Arts production of Benediction, based on the author’s own novel. Addie and Louis discuss the fact that it’s set in Holt, the fictional town in which they live. Why do you think Haruf slipped this into the story?
17. At the end of that conversation, Addie says, “Who would have thought at this time in our lives that we’d still have something like this. That it turns out we’re not finished with changes and excitements. And not all dried up in body and spirit” (147). What point is Haruf making?
18. Jamie’s arrival ultimately leads to grave consequences. What is Gene afraid of?
19. Several times during the novel, Addie is described as being brave, but she gives in to Gene’s demands. Is this a brave act? What is she protecting?
20. How would you describe the ending—as heartbreaking, hopeful, or something else?
21. In his final interview, conducted a few days before his death from interstitial lung disease, Haruf discussed Our Souls at Night: “The idea for the book has been floating around in my mind for quite a while. Now that I know I have, you know—a limited time—it was important to me to try to make good use of that time. So I went out there every day. Typically, I have always had a story pretty well plotted out before I start writing. This time I knew generally where the story was going, but I didn’t know very many of the details. So as it happened, I went out every day trusting myself to be able to add to the story each day. So I essentially wrote a new short chapter of the book every day. I’ve never had that experience before. I don’t want to get too fancy about it, but it was like something else was working to help me get this done. Call it a muse or spiritual guidance, I don’t know. All I know is that the trust I had in being able to write every day was helpful.” How does reading this affect your understanding of the book?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Simply and poignantly written of the magic, intimacy and fragility of love at life's maturity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed this sweet but short book The ending felt disappointing but true
It sounded a little scary at first but, it was not
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.
Such a soft, tender story. Haruf's death is a loss for all of us.
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.
A beautiful and tender novel. Simple and yet so eloquent. J M Lydon
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.
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.
What a gem of a book! I think the talking in bed is the most important and enjoyable time of day or night. Should my husband die before me, I will miss this the most, I think. The book had an air of authenticity. It was real. It was funny at times and sad at times, just like real life. It has been made into a movie on Netflix (I think) and I’m not sure I want to see it. I don’t know how it could be any better than the book! I highly recommend this book!
I am a fan of Kent Haruf’s novels, particularly the Plainsong series set in Holt Colorado. This novel had escaped my attention until I saw a preview for the movie that will be based upon it. I was excited to see Jane Fonda and Robert Redford starring in the movie and thought - this is a must read before seeing the movie. I was not disappointed. The book is written in a conversational style without quotation marks or attribution. At times I found it difficult to determine who was speaking. However, it is definitely worth the effort. The story focuses on the later stages of a widow’s and widower’s lives and how they meet their needs, particularly loneliness, versus the opinions, judgments, and expectations of their adult children and the town people. Haruf’s characters are treated with his typical gentle kindness and insight. I found Our Souls At Night to be a quiet, comforting, and touching story. I enjoyed the presentation of the simple things in life and the companionship/experiences of a couple during their golden years. I was surprised by the ending of the story. The decisions made by Addie felt out of character to me and were disappointing. I could understand them, and perhaps they were realistic, but I definitely did not like them. The end came quickly, felt rushed compared to the first half of the book, and ultimately made me sad. However, even with the ending, I found this to be a delightful and beautiful story filled with wisdom and love. It is one I will reflect on for a while and recommend to others. I was sorry to find out that this is also Haruf’s last novel, but it does seem somehow fitting. After reading this, I can’t wait to see the movie adaptation of this book.
A delightful read. Lovely story
I love how Mr. HARUF writes. So simple, so heartwarming and heartbreaking. A perfect combination!
I really wanted to like this book, and finished about half, but the HORRIBLE grammar made me finally just quit. I mean, does the man know what a period is? Run on sentences are my pet peeve and I just couldn't take it anymore.
Y'all must have read a different book than I did. It was terrible! Don't waste your time!
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.