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Review: Our Souls at Night

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Though it’s always brimming with children running around, the local library is one of my favourite places to be. I try to squeeze in a trip at least once a month in order to actively take out some books to read for pleasure as opposed to academic interests and so far, 2017 has treated me well and I’ve been able to get through about 23 books (a mix of fiction and non-fiction) that I have actually enjoyed.

Earlier on in the day – it’s 04:00 AM now, maybe it’s more fitting to say yesterday? but technically I haven’t slept to break up the night from day yet so… – I realised that a trip to the library was long overdue. I packed up my books from last month and set off to both return them and find some new worthwhile reads. As usual, I could’t leave with just one book, so I wandered aimlessly (stroking the spines of books I passed like the little saddo that I am), until I spotted titles that jumped out at me – naturally, I ended up leaving with five.

One of these books was Kent Haruf’s ‘Our Souls at Night’. I didn’t really think I’d be into it as much as I was, but as soon as I picked it up, I was hooked. I started reading it at about 1 AM and ended up sitting there with a bowl of cereal (Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut to be precise) and the book up until about 02:51 AM and honestly, it was one of the fastest 2 hours of my life. The book was absolute magic. Now, it must be noted here that this is not one of those books that have you hooked because of the complexity of the story line or the intensity of the characters, but rather one that maintains its pace with a subtle simplicity only poets, like Haruf, seem to be capable of.

Haruf gracefully writes of the everyday, carefully integrating narratives of love, life, and companionship in the face of death, loss, and societal pressures. While there was room for plenty to go wrong in the banality of everyday life, Haruf’s use of transparent colloquial language allows the readers, like myself, to fully engross themselves into the personalities of the characters and understand the luminosity that can exist in the everyday. While the crux of the story is the journey through the developing relationship between the two main characters, Addie and Louis, it is important to remember that this is not a book about the grand gestures. But most importantly, this is not a love story. This is a coming-of-age novel like you’ve never read before.

Without giving away too many spoilers, Haruf’s unconventional focus on the relationship of the mind lets us intimately know Addie and Louis through their life at an old age and the human need for companionship despite the societal pressures to live and love in an ‘appropriate’ way. This beautifully simple story stirs thoughts and emotions deep within and makes you feel a nostalgia for a life you yourself have not led. Though the honesty and realism with which it was written stands out from the rest, there were four main elements/themes that really took it home for me:

  1. the social positions of the protagonists
  2. the stripping of sexual satisfaction
  3. the value of platonic love over romantic love
  4. the impact of society on daily life

On the whole, Haruf’s ‘Our Souls at Night’ is not incredibly sensational, but it is deep and heartwarming and has the capacity to make you understand the magic that is the luminosity of the everyday. While most would probably describe it as a ‘boring’ read, I find that the soft tenderness with which Haruf has written the characters into life makes all the difference in the world in seeing them as real people seeking the extraordinary moments of their otherwise ordinary lives.

I am always on the hunt for good reads, so drop me a message or leave a comment for anything you guys would recommend – I have no genre limitations. Also, if you ever happen to read the books I read, let me know what you think! It’s always nice to have a chat or debrief after being so engrossed in a whole other world.

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Ayesha Khanom

Sometimes a teacher, sometimes a student, but mostly caffeinated. This blog is a terrible attempt at writing out my thoughts - think of it as the 'comments, complaints, and suggestions' section of my brain. Nevertheless, I hope that some of these words will find a place in your heart and will stay with you even when I do not. If you'd like to get in touch, send me a message on Instagram or leave a comment on one of these posts and I'll get back to you at the best possible time.

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