Our Souls At Night, Kent Haruf, Read by Mark Bramhall

soulsI was attracted to this book for many reasons, not the least of them being that my husband shares a name with Louis, although it is spelled differently. Another reason is that I am a senior citizen who has often contemplated the loneliness that would come in the years ahead for one or another of us. Then, too, Haruf was the same age as the characters, which made the story even more poignant . He understood their feelings very well having just received a diagnosis of a terminal illness. His wife would shortly be left alone.
This is a truly touching story about two older adults, a widow and a widower, who live alone. They have no one to talk to at night except themselves. To solve this problem of loneliness and isolation, 70 year old Addie Moore has an idea. She visits Louis Waters and makes him a proposal. How would he feel about coming to her house to sleep with her, just as friends, for conversation, not for sex? Louis decides to think about it, and she tells him, all right, just call her and let her know if he agrees. They live within easy walking distance of each other, but they were not close friends as couples when their spouses were alive. Although Addie was friendly with Diane, Louis’ wife, Louis did not really know her husband, Carl. Addie explained that she was lonely and really just wanted to have some company to share ideas with, before she falls asleep. She believed that he was lonely too.
Louis decides to go to the barber and clean himself up. Then he makes the call. He goes over to Addie’s house, at first, through the back door, shy and embarrassed, but later on, through the front entrance. Their meeting is a bit awkward, but after they spend the night together, they bravely soldier on and he makes repeat visits to her nightly. In the beginning, their conversation falters a bit, but then it grows more natural as they confide their secrets to each other, sometimes with unnecessary critical judgment. They have both made missteps in their life that have had serious repercussions. Soon, however, they grow closer and more comfortable with each other and more comfortable in their own skins. Their banter is charming and innocent as they begin to explore life again as they talk. They are both genuinely happy to have each other’s company. When the gossips begin rattling their tongues, they defy them and begin to blatantly appear in public. They no longer care what people think because they care about each other, and they are old enough to have earned the right to ignore the gossip.
When Addie’s son’s marriage and dying business catapult him into a no man’s land, he sends his son to spend the summer with Addie. She and Louis approach him tenderly and slowly and both learn to appreciate his presence and his sadness. He is lonely too. They love him and engage him in activities to keep his mind off his troubles. He misses both his parents. They miss their spouses. The young and old have similar needs.
Addie’s son is the fly in the ointment. He disrupts this happy picture . He disapproves of their immoral behavior and demands an end to their relationship. He is sure that Louis is after her money and nothing more. It seems more likely that her son was worried about his share of an inheritance. He was rude and very unkind to Louis. His threats to cut himself and Jamie out of her life weaken Addie’s resolve. This woman, who had been so brave at first, became so frightened of losing her family and being totally alone, that she ends her relationship with Louis. Although Louis wanted to become her family, for her, she knew that if anything happened to him, her son and grandson would be all she would have left with whom to share her life. If they cut her off, she would be lost.
Oddly, while all are lonely, the one who seemed to hold the cards and control the situation was the one who shouldn’t have had a card in his hand. Her son Gene was still, decades later, harboring guilt about his sister’s death and lack of fatherly affection. He was very self-absorbed. Should Addie have defied his demands which were so heartless? She and Louis were, after all, providing for all of each other’s needs and both were happy and content. Each of them, Addie, Jamie, and Louis brought something into the relationship that made them grow. Even the older, formerly abused dog whom Louis insisted they adopt, Bonnie, played a role. She taught Jamie how to return affection and trust again, as Louis and Addie had just begun to do with each other. The dog was disabled slightly, physically, as the older adults seemed to be emotionally. The boy made Louis and Addie young again as they helped Jamie grow stronger and more mature.
The book beautifully captured the state of mind and home life of the elderly who live alone, and also the confusion that a child endures when parents no longer share marital bliss, and as a byproduct, also the loss of a parent by any means. For the elderly, their lives grow emptier and emptier as their friends, spouses, relatives, and children pass on or move away. For the child, their world narrows, as well, when parents separate and they have to learn to live with only one, as they often move away from their comfort zone, have to make new friends, live in a new neighborhood and home and go to a new school. This narrative allows the reader to experience their lives and watch them as they work through their problems. It is a lovely tale of love and friendship that twists and turns through the different phases of life, and in some cases, it becomes very bittersweet.
When Louis introduces Jamie to some abandoned baby mice, Jamie discovers that they, too, are motherless and needy. He watches them grow, but soon they move on to live their lives someplace else, which is an important lesson for him to learn. Everyone needs someone to care for them and help them, but one day, everyone moves on. The story guides us through the full circle of life. We are born weak and helpless and we most likely will die in that same way. Using mundane, everyday situations, Haruf often imparts a message with profound meaning. Casual conversations reveal important details about the lives of the characters. There is sadness in the book because what was once a hopeful moment in life, becomes one of grief and loneliness again, but there is beauty in the message of love and companionship.
Who made the right decision about their relationship, Addie or Louis? Would it have been better if one or the other stood up to Gene, Addie’s son? His behavior was rude. Parents bring children into the world and share their lives. The children provide comfort, company and structure in much the same way as the parent does. Year later, children move on. As parents, we start out alone, before children; we end up alone, after they leave. Should children assume the role of parent to their parent, in order to provide structure for them, or should they allow them the freedom to make their own decisions, to muddle through without interfering except in regards to safety? They often misinterpret situations with their young eyes and often seek to merely protect their inheritance without understanding the true needs of their parents and they treat their parents like little children, condescending rather than respecting their concerns. This book clearly shines a light on all of the moments of family life complete with its tragedies and celebrations, its failures and successes, its joys and its heartbreaks. It is wonderful even with its moments of gloom.souls


About omasvoice

Who am I? I am you. I am everyone out there who loves to read and discuss and voice an opinion!
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