Library Directors Notebook
Kent Haruf, author of Our Souls At Night, died recently. This is his last book which he struggled to complete before dying. There is a poignancy associated with any artist’s last work, but I think Our Souls At Night would have been touching even if it were not Haruf’s final novel.
When so many novels today assume a modern acceptance concerning casual sex or mindless coupling, Haruf’s novel takes a unique, even astonishing slant. In a small Colorado town, Widow Addie Moore has a unique proposition for her neighbor, Widower Louis Waters, husband of her late friend. Addie asks Louis if he would be willing to sleep at her house, in her bed, not for sex, but for companionship. Addie explains that it is the long, lonely reaches of the night that make her feel the most bereft. She believes the company of a good, honest man would do her good.
To say that Louis is nonplussed by her offer is putting it mildly. Yet with true laconic spirit he keeps his head and asks for more details. In the end they decide to give it a try, but of course the novel, short as it is, doesn’t end there.
This is a small town, where everyone quickly learns about and judges everyone else’s business. Addie and Louis soon find themselves having to defend their actions to their neighbors, although they soon discover that the best defense is a good offense. More problematic are the reactions of their adult children, who although having been less than successful in their own lives, still feel impelled to direct the affairs of their parents.
More complications arise when Addie is asked by her distracted son to watch her grandson Jamie while he tries to straighten out his disastrous marriage. Addie finds Jamie to be very timorous and frightened by the break up of his parents, but slowly he blossoms under his grandmother’s care and Louis’s kindly attention. But how can Addie and Louis continue to sleep together with Jamie now living, albeit temporarily, under Addie’s roof?
Those expecting or hoping for a storybook ending to this enticing story will be disappointed. All does not end well, but all is not lost either. This is a book to race through, impelled by the very genuine, honest emotions of Addie and Louis and a heartfelt desire to see them triumph in their simple quest for companionable, if unconventional, love. Love may not conquer all, but it certainly puts up a good fight!