Our Souls at Night (Vintage Contemporaries)

by Kent Haruf

Other authorsAlan Kent Haruf (Author)
Paperback, 2016

Call number

FIC HAR

Publication

Vintage (2016), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages

Description

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
Oh my, how I loved this book! Published after the author had died, he finished it a few days before the end of his earthly journey. And, his death is a shame, really a true shame. I'll read all his other books, longing for more.

In a condensed amount of pages, he speaks volumes. This is a touching, dear, quiet and poignant story of two elderly people , Addie and Louis, who live in small town Holt Colorado. Both lost their spouses; both are alone and missing companionship.

When Addie gets enough courage, she knocks on Louis' door to make a straightforward request. She would like to sleep with Louis, not for sex, but simply to have someone beside her during the dark hours of the night. He can keep his house and she can remain in hers, but would he please consider lying beside her at night.

Louis agrees, and soon the two are communicating, and find they rather like each other's company. Addie notes that she really doesn't care what small-town gossipy people may say. Louis gradually agrees with her and respects her request that he use the front, rather than the back door for entry.

When Addie's son and his wife are having difficulty, he leaves the young boy with Addie. Over the summer months, the older couple grow to love the boy, and he no longer cries at night or has bad dreams.

There are wonderful passages of the boy and a dog rescued from the pound. The boy unfolds and blossoms with the dog, Addie and Louis at his side.

I longed for a happier ending, but life teaches young and old alike that short bursts of genuine happiness ripen and all to quickly fall from the tree.

Five Stars!
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Kent Haruf earned critical acclaim for his Plainsong trilogy set in Holt, a fictional small town in rural Colorado. The novels were filled with gentle, moving prose portraying the ups and downs of daily life, and the hardships people invariably face. Towards the end of his life, Haruf found he had one more story to tell: that of Addie and Louis, a couple who found one another late in life. The book opens with Addie visiting Louis, and asking him to share her bed overnight for conversation and companionship, not for sex. Louis is an agreeable sort, so after the shock wears off he decides to accept her invitation. As their relationship develops they face the prying eyes of their neighbors with aplomb. When Addie's 6-year-old grandson Jamie comes to visit, they take great pains to carefully introduce him to their arrangement, and slowly help Jamie heal some emotional wounds. Eventually Addie and Louis' companionship develops into a deeper relationship, and at the same time they are faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Our Souls at Night is just as beautiful as Haruf's earlier books, albeit somewhat shorter and focused only on Addie and Louis vs. the stories of other families in Holt. But Haruf wrote this novel as an homage to his wife Cathy, whom he married later in life as well. When read as a final tribute to a lifelong love, this book becomes a thing of beauty. I will greatly miss reading about the people of Holt.
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LibraryThing member lkernagh
This is the best Haruf read for me so far, and sadly, the last book of his to be published, that I am aware of anyways. While time seems to stand still in Holt, Colorado – the fictional town Haruf’s stories are set in – Haruf gives us enough subtle clues (like Addie’s 6 year old grandson Jamie having his own cell phone) to place this story squarely in Haruf’s time when he wrote it. This time the main characters are two neighbours, both widowed and in their twilight years. Their platonic nights spent together at Addie’s house give Louis and Addie a new lease on happiness, even if their attempts to keep their nights together unobtrusive fail as the town gossips start to make comments about what “they think” is going on.

As with his other books, this story is multi-generational, with a focus on family and community, but it is not all sweetness and light. In this story, Haruf continues his theme that some of the most destructive elements can be found within one’s own family, and that “family” as a positive support is not necessary determined by blood relation. Some opinions and actions in this story are harsh. It is always shocking to me how people who do not approve of someone else’s behaviour (even when it has nothing to do with them) still feel they have a right to dictate change: “I don’t like what you are doing, so YOU have to change”, with no regard for the thoughts or feelings of the other person. That kind of attitude makes me see red, so my emotions while reading this one went through the whole spectrum of happiness, sadness, anger, grief and laughter. Haruf knows how to emotionally draw me into a story and it was a delightful surprise to discover Haruf delving into a bit of meta-fiction fun at one point with Louis and Addie engaging in a conversation about fictional books about Holt (Plainsong is easily recognizable in their conversation!) and how much they would not want to be the subject of another fictional Holt book.

Beautifully written, this story will hopefully renew your belief in happiness, even if it is never secure and there can be unexpected risks and bumps along the way.
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LibraryThing member tapestry100
A beautiful, sparse story of a woman and a man who find companionship in their later lives through a fairly unconventional proposal: Addie Moore stops in to see Louis Waters one day wondering if he would like to come and sleep in her bed with her at night.

No, not sex. I'm not looking at it that way. I think I've lost any sexual impulse a long time ago. I'm talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably. Lying down in bed together and you staying the night. The night's are the worst. Don't you think?

She misses the closeness of her husband, who passed away several years ago, and would like someone to talk to at night. Louis' wife has passed as well, and while at first he is unsure exactly of how this will all play out, he agrees to sleep with her for one night, and then they would both see how they felt. If it was uncomfortable and neither wanted to do it again, they could walk away, no strings attached.

What they discover is a companionship and closeness that comes unexpectedly to them, while causing something of a scandal in their small town. People seem shocked by their decision, but Addie and Louis decide that they are of an age where what other people think is of no consequence to them anymore. That summer, Addie's grandson, Jamie, comes to live with her for the summer while his father (her son), organizes his own life. Jamie is confused by the change, but Addie and Louis rediscover their ability to take care of a young child again, and something of a family comes to exist. It isn't until tensions between Addie's son and Louis grow that anything can ruin what they have created for themselves.

This is a very fast read; Haruf wastes no time getting to the meat of the story. He takes what starts out as a very unconventional idea and reforms it into something that seems so natural that it isn't a wonder that more people don't make this a regular practice. My only complaint with his storytelling is making the book a bit too sparse; the lack of any quotations marks in the book makes for a somewhat confusing reading experience at times. Other than this one minuscule gripe, this is a beautifully told story, and one that will stick with you.
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
This is a tender and poignant little glimpse of ordinary people living the best they know how in the face of bewildering changes and unreasonable expectations. The story is utterly unpretentious, uplifting and sad in equal measure. Addie Moore, a lonely widow, proposes to her neighbor, Louis Waters, that they spend a few nights together at her house, talking and sharing a bed ---nothing more. It's chancy, and they both know it might be a bust. But then again, it might relieve their mutual loneliness. Honesty, kindness and general common sense are hard at work in these characters, as they explore in conversation their marriages, their past sorrows and failings. Just as it seems the experiment might actually be working, Addie's son drops her six-year old grandson into her care for the summer without much warning. The boy is having a very hard time dealing with his parents' break-up, and he hardly knows his grandmother. He soon finds he is lucky to have her and Louis on his side. Kudos to Haruf for spending his final days crafting this gift to his readers, and for avoiding either an unrealistic happy ending or an outright tragedy. That's life, so much of the time.
December 2015
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
“She stood and went out and walked back home, and he stood at the door watching her, this medium-sized seventy-year-old woman with white hair walking away under the trees in the patches of light thrown out by the corner street lamp. What in the hell, he said. Now don’t get ahead of yourself.”(Ch 1)

Addie Moore and Louis Waters live in the small rural community of Holt, Colorado and have known one other for decades – they knew one another’s spouses and children, too. But they’ve been alone now for ages, each living in a home empty of family, the nights so terribly long and lonely. Courageous Addie approaches Louis and asks him to keep her company at night, so that she’ll have someone to sleep with, to talk with. There’ll be small-town-talk, lots of it, but neither cares.

Then Jamie, Addie’s grandson, comes to live with her, and after a period of adjustment, the three settle into a quiet, supportive comfort. But it is not to be. Gene, Addie’s adult son and Jamie’s father, damaged in childhood by the loss of his sister, Connie, and by the resulting non-relationship with his father, remains a damaged adult: unforgiving, small-minded, querulous. In his ignorance, he issues his mother an ultimatum.

Our Souls at Night, written in the spare, eloquent prose that I love Kent Haruf for, is a deeply resonant story of a man and woman who find each other in advanced age, and come together to grapple with the events of their lives – and with their hopes for the immediate future. At one point, Addie and Louis attend the Holt County Fair together, and immediately, I thought, I’ve been to this fair before. Now, which of Haruf’s Holt characters was I here with? I will dearly miss Holt and its inhabitants. Easily recommended.
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LibraryThing member flourgirl49
Another book - and the last - from author Kent Haruf which takes place in the small town of Holt, Colorado. Written in spare, beautiful, evocative prose, it tells the tale of two elderly people who forge a new life for themselves after their respective spouses die. It's a small gem of a book. I would recommend all books by Haruf - and unfortunately there won't be any more as he died last year at a too-young age.… (more)
LibraryThing member konastories
Joy's review: A couple forms a deep companionship in their 70's when the woman says she'd like to sleep with him (just sleep). Very clean writing; nothing extraneous in this book. Characters are very believable... although I don't want to believe that someone like her son exists. Our book club had a wonderful discussion about this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Vicki_Weisfeld
My book club selected this short novel, 192 pages, a gentle story about aging and that difficult transition between when parents think they know what’s best for their children (and usually tell them so) and children come to think they know what’s best for their parents (and do tell them so).
Addie, a widow, and Louis, a widower, are neighbors in small-town Holt, Colorado, in the eastern, high plains portion of the state. In the book’s first chapter, Addie pays a call on Louis and proposes that he visit her at night, lie in bed with her, and have a companionable conversation. Sex isn’t exactly off the agenda, but it’s not at the top and rather beside the point. This unusual arrangement begins, and before long the whole town knows about it. Soon thereafter word spreads to Addie and Louis’s far-flung and scandalized children, who want it to stop.
The conversations between Addie and Louis are low-key and unsentimental. They talk about their marriages and the deaths of their spouses, about their children, about many things. Author Haruf’s unadorned writing style (not even decorated with quotation marks) gives their interactions a deceptive simplicity. For example In speaking about Addie’s son Gene, who is losing his store and has to start a new career, Louis asks:
What is it he wants to do?
He’s always been in sales of some kind.
That doesn’t seem to fit him, as I remember him.
No. He’s not the salesman type. I think he’s afraid now. He won’t say so.
But this could be a chance for him to break out. Break the pattern. Like his mother has. Like you’ve done.
He won’t, though. He’s got his life all screwed down tight.
Both of them find in their late-night conversations a closeness and connection they never achieved with their spouses. Addie asks, “Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if any at all.” Except these lucky two, who at least know what they want. Says Louis, “I just want to live simply and pay attention to what’s happening each day. And come sleep with you at night.”
This restrained style works perfectly well in a novel about the places and people that are Haruf’s subjects, in this book and his others. It is a lean diet, stripped of fat and garnish. Yet the meat of Our Souls, the struggle against pettiness and small-mindedness, is worthy of consumption.
People seem to like this book. All seven copies in the Mercer County Library System were out, so I had to snag the large-print version. I’ve since learned this was Haruf’s last book, the sixth in a series set in Holt, finished a few days before he died in 2014.
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LibraryThing member tututhefirst
The world lost an exceptional writer when Kent Haruf died in November 2014.  I think Our Souls at Night, his farewell offering, is by far the most eloquent and bittersweet of all his works. The publisher gives us a detailed description almost as long as the book itself.  I won't quote it, or spoil the story but it begins

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf's 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 long been aware of each other, if not exactly friends; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis's wife. His daughter, Holly, lives hours away in Colorado Springs; her son, Gene, even farther away in Grand Junction. What Addie has come to ask—since she and Louis have been living alone for so long in houses now empty of family, and the nights are so terribly lonely—is whether he might be willing to spend them with her, in her bed, so they can have someone to talk with.
As the story progresses, Haruf's typical laconic prose pulls us into the arms of Addie and Louis as they negotiate their way through long buried feelings and share their past lives and adventures.  The arrival of Addie's grandson, who is almost "dumped" by her son in the midst of his marital problems, brings an added layer of richness to the elders as they reminisce about raising their own children in earlier days.

In such a small town, it is inevitable that Louis' nightly comings and goings are noted and commented on.  However, most residents adopt a "live and let live" attitude toward the unusual couple.  It is only when Addie and Louis' grown children become horrified at their parents' immoral, shocking, and embarrassing behavior, and try to destroy the relationship,  that the true melancholy of the loneliness of old age becomes apparent.

This is a short book, only 192 pages, but it is beautifully nuanced, and poignantly emotional.  The reader wants it to go on for another 100 pages, but Haruf, in his evocative style, is able to bring the story to a well-paced conclusion, even though our hearts break to read it.

Like all the books he wrote that are set in Holt Colorado, this one is destined to be a classic.  Whether you've read any of his earlier books (they can all stand alone) or this is your first, it will not disappoint.
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LibraryThing member Ken-Me-Old-Mate
What a lovely short novel about a single thing, loneliness, companionship, friendship, judgement, sadness, and finally, choice. Yes, all that one thing. Maybe it’s because the man characters are older that I related to it so well but they stood out as real as you or me.

Delving into the subtleties of tenderness and intimacy as well as the depths of emotional abuse and emotional blackmail. And how sometimes the right decision can be made for the wrong reasons and it is obvious to everyone but the maker of that decision that it will end badly.

Such a sad but good read.
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
It breaks my heart that this is Kent Haruf's last book. He passed away in November at age 71. This book, like his others brings you into the lives of his characters in Holt, Colorado. He makes you feel like you're in the room and part of the story. I loved this book just like I loved his others. I will miss him.
LibraryThing member gayla.bassham
I thought I had no interest in this book, but I read it in one sitting and just adored it. It's a beautiful gentle romance about two elderly people who've survived various tragedies and disappointments and now seek a less lonely life. Sparely written, without a wasted word. A couple of side characters feel a bit cliched, but the central pair feel very much like real people. I can't do this book justice in a short writeup, but it is absolutely worth your time.… (more)
LibraryThing member kremsa
Our Souls at Night is a short novel about two people in their early 70s that have both lost their spouses and are living a lonely existence. This changes when Addie approaches her neighbor Louis proposes an idea. "I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep in the night with me. And talk. …I’m not talking about sex." Louis accepts and the pair learn about each other as they share their likes and dislikes, regrets and life stories while they lie in bed each night talking. It is a bittersweet story that leaves you with a lot to think about. This is the first novel by Kent Haruf that I have read. I really like his writing style; simple but eloquent, direct, honest and vividly descriptive. I am saddened to hear that Haruf recently passed on but I am look forward to reading his earlier work.… (more)
LibraryThing member Perednia
Addie Moore has been widowed for years. Her only son and his family live out of town. She keeps fairly active but she’s lonely. So one day, out of the blue, she calls a neighbor. Louis Waters, a retired high school English teacher, lost his wife years ago. His only daughter lives out of town as well.

Since Addie and Louis live in Holt, Colorado, the setting of all of Kent Haruf’s unembellished novels, where people tend to create makeshift families, they won’t be alone all the time in his final novel, Our Souls at Night.

The worst part of being alone, Addie tells Louis, is there is no one to talk to at night. So what does he think about coming over to spend the same night, to sleep in the same bed, no obligations, no sex? Well, Louis thinks about it. And he heads over.

Their unorthodox relationship has some in town buzzing and others cheering. But Addie says she’s way past worrying about others and it’s time Louis did the same:

"I told you I don’t want to live like that anymore -- for other people, what they think, what they believe. I don’t think it’s the way to live. It isn’t for me anyway."

Over the course of a summer, they tell each other secrets and stories from their lives, secure that neither will judge the other harshly or wrongly. This includes a huge mistake Louis made and still regrets. He also believes that mistake says something about his character.

It’s not something he wishes for his own daughter. He wishes the opposite for her:

"I wish you would find somebody who’s a self-starter. Somebody who would go to Italy with you and get up on a Saturday morning and take you up in the mountains and get snowed on and come home and be filled up with it all."

When Addie’s young grandson is sent to spend the summer with her, because his parents are fighting, Louis adds wonderful experiences to the child’s world -- watching a nest of newborn mice, learning how to play catch, going camping and having a dog.

Trouble could come from many sources -- their ages, their children, even changing feelings. When trouble does arrive, it is infuriating, all the more because it is entirely plausible. Family members don’t always wish the best, and only the best, for each other. This seems especially true when past hurts become deeply ingrained grudges. Some people just don’t get over things. They let their hurts fester until their souls are poisoned. And then, sometimes, they try to infect others with the same venom. Even the people who love them.

Haruf gets this across calmly, quietly, letting the characters and their actions speak for themselves without much exposition. This narrative style may seem too quiet and nondescript for some. But when the emotional wallops come, they are all the stronger for the lack of hyperbole.

In this, his final novel, Haruf also has a grand meta moment when Addie and Louis talk about dramatic adaptations of stories set in their town by some writer. But they couldn’t be true. They’ve lived in Holt for years and never heard about two old bachelor brothers who took in a young pregnant woman.

For readers such as this one, who have adored Haruf’s novels since that story, Plainsong, it was a sweet moment of farewell
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LibraryThing member debnance
Addie stops by Louis’ house and asks him a question: Would he stay the night with her? Just to talk? And Louis says yes.

But Addie and Louis aren’t twenty-somethings; they are seventy-somethings. There are always people who just won’t let others live their lives.

A touching, beautiful story.… (more)
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
It's been some years since I have read Ken Haruf's Plainsong and Eventide, but I remember loving the depiction of quiet dignity that he gave to his characters and the rendering of life in Holt, Colorado, -farming, ranch life- hard work done uncomplainingly by people not looking for help. So needless to say I was very pleased to have happened upon this simply told story about people needing to connect in order to feel alive.
In a wonderful opening for the story, Addie Moore walks over to her neighbor's house, Louis. Though they are in their 70's and mostly just casual acquaintances, Addie proposes that Louis consider coming over some nights and sharing a bed with her. She misses not having a body next to her and would welcome someone to talk to in bed, at night, when she suspects they are both most lonely. She is right.
As this arrangement unfolds and the town raises an eyebrow, we get to share in the history of these two, their tragedies, their affairs, their dreams. Life starts to interfere in their new found closeness as Addie's grandson comes to live with her while her son works on his marriage. The inclusion of the young boy only makes the reader more aware of how good hearted these two are. And though their are few who approve of their shared happiness, it will be hard to separate these two from staying connected - Our Souls at Night.
As this novel was written as the author himself was dying, we can only thank him for deciding to put forth the effort to create this last sweet tale. Treat yourself to this novel.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
This was another quiet conversation with the reader, very much like the rest of his stories, although much shorter. I think this story will get the adjective bittersweet stamped all over it but, personally, I only found it sad. Not sad in the "pathetic offering from an author" sense because I think this is a good book. Rather, I found the story very sad: a child broken by selfish parents, people reaching for something in their twilight years and falling short, narrow-mindedness abounding.

About the only thing I didn't care for was when Haruf broke the fourth wall and discussed his other stories in this one. Somehow, that cheapened them all in my mind. It was it he said, ”Oh, I’m just playing," and, thereby, destroyed the illusion that Holt was real.
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LibraryThing member VivienneR
This story, which was Haruf's last, is heartwarming and moving. It shows our ability to console and be compassionate, even in unexpected situations. In this case an elderly couple come together to enjoy each other's company. It has bittersweet moments, but this story is a perfect jewel.
LibraryThing member KimMeyer
Simple, straightforward, and heartbreaking. Haruf paints the ordinary details of everyday life so well. I read a lot of quiet novels like this, always wanting to love them but often feeling like something is missing. I'm placing this one next to Hannah Coulter on my mental shelf of poignant stories that hit the mark.
LibraryThing member julie10reads
When he recovered from the devastating shock of a diagnosis of inoperable and terminal lung disease, Kent Haruf wanted to work purposefully during the time left to him. He said to his wife: “Let’s write a book about us”. The final draft was completed shortly before he died in November, 2014.

Set in the same fictional town of Holt, Colorado,as Haruf’s previous novels (which I haven’t read), OUR SOULS AT NIGHT hooks the reader at the very first sentence:

“And then there was the day when Abbie Moore made a call on Louis Waters."

You feel as if Haruf is sitting down--just with you--to tell you his last story, a twilight romance between two lonely seniors who are surprised by companionship and love and new family. Widowed Abbie Moore calls on widower Louis Waters--they’ve known each other socially for years--to propose that he sleep with her at night, not for sex,she clarifies, but to have someone to talk to in the dark. Louis eventually agrees to the arrangement, opening the door to a future neither dreamed of at this time in their lives. Townsfolk gossip, to the amusement of Abbie and Louis.

When Abbie’s son, Gene, dumps his son on her for the summer, the lovers become like new parents. Louis buys the boy a dog, plays catch and fishes with him; all the bonding activities his real father doesn’t have time for. When Gene realizes the nature of his mother’s relationship with Louis, he removes his son and forces her to make a choice.

The prose of OUR SOULS AT NIGHT is spare. Haruf’s three favourite authors were Hemingway, Faulkner and Chekov and he would read from one of their works each morning to remind himself “what a sentence can be”, before beginning his own writing. Good writing comes from good reading. In an interview weeks before his death, Haruf said:

And as a writer, I want to be thought of as somebody who had a very small talent but worked as best he could at using that talent. I want to think that I have written as close to the bone as I could. By that I mean that I was trying to get down to the fundamental, irreducible structure of life, and of our lives with one another.

OUR SOULS AT NIGHT reads “close to the bone”, a line drawing rather than a painting. That Kent Haruf chose to tell this particular story, a valedictory in the face of his own mortality, I find poignant and meaningful. A literary legacy the author literally dedicated his life to.

Highly recommended to readers of literary fiction.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
Kent Haruf's last novel, published posthumously, is a slim volume. Haruf takes us back to Holt, Colorado, but focuses on two characters, Addie and Louis. Neighbors who have both recently lost their spouses, Addie and Louis begin sleeping together just for the company. They are people of few words, but in those words, they speak volumes about the lonely of losing a spouse and the difficulty of finding oneself in the world that remains. Addie's grandson, Jamie, makes an appearance as well, coming to stay with Addie when his parents separate and showing that loneliness is an issue that spans ages. Holt has become one of my favorite authors, creating characters that are so real that I'm sure I've met them on the streets of my small town. He leaves a legacy of book that mark a place and a way of life.… (more)
LibraryThing member UnderMyAppleTree
Addie and Louis live in the small town of Holt, Colorado. They’ve been acquaintances for years, yet never really knew each other. Her husband died years ago; Louis’ wife died too. They each live alone now; their children moved away. When Addie approaches Louis for companionship—to spend the night together as friends—Louis is at first surprised, but then happy to have someone to talk to.

Their late night conversations reveal the stories of their lives: Happy and sad times, loves and losses, hopes and dreams, and family secrets. Although they are discreet, not everyone approves of their relationship. When Addie’s six-year-old grandson, Jamie, comes to stay with her for the summer, her son strongly disapproves leaving Addie torn between family and her feelings for Louis.

This is a beautifully written story with a deeply emotional ending: bittersweet and sad. And an ending I was not expecting. To say much more would spoil this captivating short story.

Audio production:
The narration was performed by Mark Bramhall. His soft, even tone and steady pacing made it pleasant and easy to listen to.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
I LOVED Our Souls at Night. What a wonderful last book. Ah, I wish we could have more from him. But this one is like a cold, crystal clear creek running through the woods on a hot summer day. Take some time to wade in it.
LibraryThing member pdebolt
This is a quietly lovely book written in Kent Haruf's signature style. Its haunting poignancy is deepened by knowing that it is his final book. I highly recommend all his books; however, this one will hold a special place in the hearts of readers who love his writing and a town called Holt.

ISBN

1101911921 / 9781101911921
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