Our Souls at Night

This moving book describes a love affair late in life. It’s set in the fictional county of Holt, Colorado. One day Addie Moore visits her neighbor Louis.  Louis almost falls off his chair when she asks him if he will come to her house and sleep with her that night.  To share conversation, Addie adds, “not sex.”

Shortly after their night visits have begun (pajamas and toothbrush, paper bag will travel), Louis asks Addie, “Why me?” She answers with a question, do you think I’d just invite anyone. Because you’re a good man, that’s why I chose you.

Haruf, writes laconically, the kind of conversation you might expect from a man raised in a small agricultural town two hours east of Colorado Springs. Yet he succeeds masterfully at tackling the deep subjects: love, death, marriage, the friction between adult children and their parents.

In the course of their conversations, you find a lot about the couple’s lives.  Both have lost spouses. Both have single children, though Addie had a daughter who died, run over as a child while playing in the sprinkler.

Louis, a schoolteacher, left his wife long ago for another teacher, but then came back to the family. He regrets deeply how much he hurt his wife.  Addie, a homemaker, stayed with her husband; although over the years, their relationship grew cooler and was not emotionally satisfying.

Along the way, Addie’s grandson, Jamie, appears. His parents are feuding, and his mother has left town for California. Addie’s son, Gene, asks his mother to mind him. However, Gene gets very upset when he learns that the three of them have shared a bed in Addie’s room.  The small-mindedness of both adult children and some of the townsfolk is well-covered.

The presence of Jamie brings play back into Addie and Louis’s lives.  Soon, Louis buys Jamie a cap, a bat, and a baseball glove. The entire threesome go camping in the mountains, where Jamie longs to see a “safe” bear.  And knowing that the boy is heartbroken by the anger and conflict in his family, Louis brings Jamie a dog to play with and provide company.

This quiet book can be read in one or two sittings, but its effect resonates. It’s also Haruf’s last book—he died in Dec., 2014, so he knew his subject well.