OUR SOULS AT NIGHT

Kent Haruf

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, her son even farther, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? As Addie and Louis come to know each other better—their pleasures and their difficulties—a beautiful story of second chances unfolds,

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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, her son even farther, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? As Addie and Louis come to know each other better—their pleasures and their difficulties—a beautiful story of second chances unfolds, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.

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  • Vintage
  • Paperback
  • June 2016
  • 192 Pages
  • 9781101911921

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About Kent Haruf

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.

Praise

“Lateness—and second chances—have always been a theme for Haruf. But here, in a book about love and the aftermath of grief, in his final hours, he has produced his most intense expression of that yet … Packed into less than 200 pages are all the issues late life provokes.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe

Discussion Questions

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. 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?

5. 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?

6. 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?

7. 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?

8. In his final interview, conducted a few days before his death, 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?