Sunday 18 September 2016

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

Published posthumously in 2015, Our Souls At Night is a beautiful, gentle love story between two elderly neighbours, who bravely decide to seek comfort in the arms of each other every night rather than being sleepless and alone.

I first came across this book thanks to the rave reviews on our ABC's Bookclub program last month. Everyone loved it - a lot - and the next day at work we were swamped by requests for the book.

After waiting for the publishers to reprint the book, we finally got our stock and Our Souls At Night has been sitting on our bestsellers shelf ever since!

It's a slim book, with a simple story, that I read in about four hours. Not a lot happens, but the humanity and tenderness that oozes from every word makes for an enriching, unforgettable experience.

The only discordant note comes from the son who struggles to accept this new arrangement. His meanness of spirit is in such stark contrast to his mother's loving kindness that it almost felt a little contrived.

Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are starring in a Netflix production based on this book, which is fitting, as there were times when the emotions evoked in this story were reminiscent of those I experienced when watching On Golden Pond all those years ago.

Holt, Colorado is a fictional town that Haruf used for all his stories.

He was awarded the Wallace Stegner Award in 2012 for "faithfully and evocatively depicting the spirit of the American West."

Our Souls At Night continues this tradition as it is also firmly rooted in place. Although, Holt is fictional, his descriptions of the local area are very real and very evocative.

Max Liu @Picador wrote this lovely post, with photographs of the area, a couple of years ago when he met Haruf (pronounced to rhyme with sheriff) at home in Salida, Colorado.

I also enjoyed the fun Haruf had in chapter 34 when his characters were talking about going to the theatre.
Did you see they're going to do that last book about Holt County? The one with the old man dying and the preacher.
They did those other two so I guess they might as well do this one too, Louis said.
Did you see those earlier ones?
I saw them. But I cant imagine two old ranchers taking in a pregnant girl.
It might happen, she said. People can do the unexpected....

He could write a book about us. How would you like that?
I don't want to be in any book, Louis said.
But we're no more improbable than the story of the two old cattle ranchers.

The books referenced are Benediction (2013) which really was turned into a play performed at the Denver Centre Theatre in 2015, Plainsong (1999) and Eventide (2004).

Highly recommended for anyone with a heart!


  1. Just bought Haruf's book following some great reviews out there. I was surprised to find out how thin the book was, but I guess it's the case when less is more. Now what to get to it as fast as I can after your review!

  2. I've read Plainsong and Eventide and really enjoyed them, then lost touch with his writing and didn't find Benediction (so to speak). I love that metafiction aspect of mentioning his other books in this one - cool.

    1. Thank you! Metafiction! That was the word I was looking for to explain what he did :-)

  3. Anonymous19/9/16

    Will I need a box of Kleenex while reading this book?
    It doesn't matter...a few tears can be refreshig...
    Looking forward to reading this book, simplicity with depth.

  4. I saw that Bookclub episode too, and was hooked too. I've got a library copy on my bedside table at the moment. Glad you loved it as well. Now just to find the time to read it.


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