After a few epic, dense reads, I was looking for a story that would be a little lighter – something with a high entertainment factor. I took a recommendation from my mother with Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. And I got everything I was looking for and more.
This story is not only full of surprises. First of all, the two central characters are elderly, which, I realized as I was reading, almost never happens. And of course, if older characters do appear in literature, it’s usually only to fulfill some kind of trope or stereotype… the sage, the senile or incapacitated, the cranky old hermit… Gandalf, Grandpa Joe, Scrooge. In this story, Kent Haruf rejects those stereotypes and gives dignity, agency, and voice too a segment of society that is too often denied all three.
Secondly, while the narrative and themes in this story feel straightforward – quite simply, two lonely people coming together and throwing social expectations out the window – Haruf ultimately does a fantastic job of making that narrative and the core themes of the story extremely complicated. So not only did I get a quick, entertaining read, but I actually found myself thinking really deeply about age, love, friendship, loneliness, social expectations, parenting, and so many other topics and themes of this simple, lovely story.
Ready to read it? Get the book from a local, independent bookstore or publisher HERE.
Turns out there is a 2017 film adaptation of the book, staring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. It has an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not too shabby. I might have to give it a watch. Did you see it? What did you think?
Lastly, I couldn’t help but wonder about some other books that put a positive spin on age. Here’s a few things I found:
- A list of The best books that celebrate old age, from Penguin. It’s rare that I come across a list that I haven’t read a single book from. I’ll take that as a challenge!
- 11 Novels with Older Characters You’re Sure to Love from Off the Shelf. This started with A Man Called Ove, which is impossible not to love, so I’ll definitely be adding several of these to my list.
- Top 10 Books About Growing Old from The Guardian. I was really excited to see Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea on this list, one of my all-time favorites.