Our Souls at Night is one of those rare gems of a novel that I won’t forget for a long time. How is it possible to create a story that is small, a slight 179 pages, simple, a mere three or four characters, but so strong that it takes your breath away?
Kent Haruf brings us into the world of two older people, both widowed, who form an unexpected connection in a small western town. The novel is about their relationship in a disapproving community. Haruf, in spare but elegant prose, enters into the realm of family with all its complications and the inevitable forces that bring people together, but also tear them apart.
The novel takes place over the course of one summer. Haruf’s sentences are short; the chapters sometimes only a page or two. In spite of this we are immersed into a rich, layered world. Two old people come together, a grown son’s marriage fails, a grandson comes to visit. The story seems simple at first glance, but Haruf deftly paints the subtle undertones of our imperfect world where love can bring both joy and sorrow.
In a previous post I wrote about my interest in older characters. Our Souls at Night is a novel about two old people, but so much more. Haruf touches on the very essence of our humanity. Sadly, Kent Haruf died in 2014 at the age of 71, a great loss for his family, friends, and his many readers.