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Likely Stories: Our Souls at Night

Jim McKeown
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

As Likely Stories comes to an end, we spend this month featuring some of Jim's favorite episodes.

Enchanting story of two acquaintances who decide to become companions to each other. 

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

A friend recently mentioned an author, Kent Haruf, and asked if I had ever read him.  She mentioned a title or two, but I drew a blank, Later that day, I happened to wander into a bookstore, and on a table at the front of the shop was Kent Haruf’s latest novel, Our Souls at Night.  Ah! serendipity! I bought the slim novel without even opening the cover.  I am glad I did.

Kent Haruf was born in Colorado.  He earned an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1973.  Before becoming a writer, he worked an amazing variety of jobs ranging from construction to a rehab hospital to Peace Corps English teacher.  All of his novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, based on the town of Yuma, Colorado.  He received a Whiting Foundation award, a special Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.  A number of his short stories have appeared in literary magazines.  He died at the young age of 71 at his home in Salida, Colorado.  Where has he been all my life?

Addie Moore is a widow who lives down the street from Louis Waters, a widower.  Addie was friends with, Diane, Louis’ wife.  Louis knew her husband, Carl, but they were not close.  One day, Addie knocks on Louis’ door to propose an idea.  She says, “I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.’ // ‘What?  How do you mean?’ // He stared at her, watching her, curious now, cautious.  // ‘You don’t say anything.  Have I taken your breath away?’ she said. // ‘I guess you have.’ // ‘I’m not talking about sex.’ // ‘I wondered.’ (5).”  Addie proposes they spend some nights together for companionship and talk.  Louis asks for time to think it over.  The next day he skulks down the back alley with a paper bag containing pajamas and a toothbrush.  He explains he wanted to hide their plan from the neighbors.  Addie says, “‘I don’t care about that.  They’ll know.  Someone will see.  […]  I made up my mind I’m not going to pay attention to what people think.  I’ve done that too long – all my life.  I’m not going to live that way anymore.  The alley makes it seem we’re doing something wrong or something to be ashamed of’” (8).  Night after night, they talk about their lives, their sorrows, their regrets, past mistakes, and hopes for the future.

Of course, the busybodies in the small town of Holt do see, and the judgments begin raining down on them.  Unfortunately, Addie’s son Gene is horrified and disgusted.  His wife leaves him, and he ships his young son, Jamie, off to Addie for the summer.  This puts a hold of a few days on the plan, but eventually Louis and Jamie bond.  This sensitive, warm, and delightful story does have a tragic ending, when Gene threatens to cut off contact with Addie’s only grandchild.  Addie struggles with what to do. 

Addie and Louis’ story led to a marvelous afternoon of reading.  Try Kent Haruf’s possibly last novel, Our Souls at Night, and experience the warm glow of friendship, and see where it will take you.  5 stars.

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  You can read my book blog at  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and HAPPY READING!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.