Where did this beautiful little book come from? Kent Haruf’s Our Souls At Night is a sparse, contained love story with such deeply-felt emotional ramifications. Two long-time neighbours in a small US town live alone with separate, solitary lives. Until this perfect opening line of the book: “And then there was the day that Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”. It feels like Haruf takes a breath in, and we come immediately into a collection of stories with no end and no beginning.
The nights are long and lonely, and Addie invites Louis, with no presumptions or ulterior motives, to join her at night in bed. To talk, to be warmer, to not be alone. It is such a simple, striking premise to launch this tale and their relationship; such an essential experience of human relationships. The blurb declares that this book is about growing old with grace which, for Addie and Louis, means the release of what people think, the leaning into what they themselves need. There is an incredible beauty in that honesty to self, that freedom.
It is bracing how pure the experiences of the characters’ are articulated. They are both retired, both have lost their spouses, both with grown up children who have moved away. This means they can now live only for themselves; they no longer have to concern themselves with others so there is a final release into their own instincts.
The book itself is constructed almost entirely out of dialogue because here it is their conversations in the night that matter. Louis comes over, they have a drink, they get into pyjamas and brush their teeth and turn the light off and hold hands in the dark and talk. The chapters are short and contained, communicating the essentials and moving swiftly on. What happens is a layering of scenes, a development through the adding up of multiple little stories. The quiet development of Addie’s and Louis’ relationship is a story distilled down to its essential elements.
I loved this book, even as I didn’t believe its tenderness. I feel like it held my heart from the outset and I trusted it and I was so vulnerable to Haruf breaking it with a tragedy befalling the characters. But this story feels real, it feels genuine, and even if it gets Hollywood-ised into something cheesy with a movie coming out this year it actually feels authentically hopeful. This is not about the pursuit of happiness or personal satisfaction but it just glows with these things in life that we seek.