One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney
Published by Coffee House Press, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Ruminative yet understated, this beguiling novel explores the fine line between life and death, and the elusive nature of the human soul.
In One Night Two Souls Went Walking, we follow a young interfaith chaplain as she carries out her nightly duties on a hospital ward, easing patients through their final moments and comforting loved ones in their newfound grief. She was drawn to the job through her fascination with the concept of souls – how they are formed, where they reside, and whether or not they ever truly leave. Though not hugely plot driven, we do see glimpses of the ways her unwavering dedication to this role has impacted her personal relationships, and through subtle hints of magical realism, the emotional toll it can take to so often be forced to say goodbye.
Despite the melancholy subject matter, the novel has a gentle quality that mirrors the narrator’s characterization. That said, Cooney hints at a complexity beyond simple kindness, showing us the white lies she is often compelled to tell in order to ease the woes of the dying so they may pass in peace.