Join MPL staff for a book discussion of Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.
About the Author
Kent Haruf is the author of five previous novels (and, with the photographer Peter Brown, West of Last Chance). His honors include a Whiting Foundations Writers' Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award, the Wallace Stegner Award, and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation; he was also finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The New York Times Book Award. He died in November 2014, at the age of seventy-one.
About the Book
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 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 contributions to American literature.
1. 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?
2. 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?
3. It takes a considerable amount of courage for a woman of Addie's generation to invite a man she hardly knows to sleep in her bed. What do you think propelled her to do it?
4. Both Louis and Addie have to contend with gossip about their relationship. Who handles it better?
5. What does Addie's friendship with Ruth show us about Addie's character?
6. Addie and Louis both had troubled marriages, but stayed married until their partners died. How does that sense of propriety, of loyalty, influence their relationship with each other?
7. Why did Addie refuse to move after Connie's death? How did this decision color Gene's reaction to his mother's late-in-life love affair?
8. How does Jamie's arrival deepen the connection between Addie and Louis?
9. 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?
10. Addie and Louis both have regrets about the way they raised their children. How does that influence their relationship with Jamie?
11. Why did Addie buy new clothes for her trips to Denver that she never wears in Holt? What signal does it send to the reader?
12. Jamie's arrival ultimately leads to grave consequences. What is Gene afraid of?
13. How would describe the ending—as heartbreaking, hopeful, or something else?
14. In his final interview, conducted a few days before his death from interstitial lung disease, 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?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)
Event Type(s): Book Discussion
Age Group(s): Adults