A young interfaith chaplain is joined on her hospital rounds one night by an unusual companion: a rough-and-ready dog who may or may not be a ghost. As she tends to the souls of her patients—young and old, living last moments or navigating fundamentally altered lives—their stories provide unexpected healing for her own heartbreak.
... it’s filled with characters who are rich with stories and eager to tell them ... There’s nothing like sitting with a chaplain in the middle of the night at the end of one’s life to stir up a rush of regrets and memories which, for readers, makes for some great stories ... Cooney is brilliant at observing and describing quirky characters—people like ourselves, really—and her truly memorable chaplain moving from patient to patient is perfect for this storytelling approach ... Cooney has no trouble turning this tall tale of a flying chaplain into a wonderful and memorable novel that lingers long and deep in the mind of readers, making us reconsider our concepts of faith, kindness, and what exactly a soul is, anyway.
Many novels aim for the soul or search for the meaning of life, but Ellen Cooney’s poetic 10th novel gets to the heart of the matter with more informal candor and wit than most ... a stroll and a meander, following the errant trail of the chaplain’s questions: What is a soul? What is holy? The chaplain’s meetings with people who are injured or dying reveal a host of varied answers, and the narrative slips between characters’ stories as easily as a shadow glides along a wall ... The novel reads like a diary confession, its casual writing style studded with pop culture references and exclamatory asides. As patients open up to the chaplain, she in turn opens up about her family, love life and dreams, engendering in readers the same open, gentle manner with which she ministers ... Cooney’s novel expands the concept of what’s possible, imagining hope where there is none and pointing always toward the light.
Ellen Cooney has created a small wonder of a book with its mix of everyday life, mystical longing and practical truth. One Night Two Souls Went Walking informs readers, right from the top, that we’re leaving the material world for something less earthbound. And yet, thanks to her storytelling skill, Cooney easily straddles the line where those two spheres co-exist ... At the heart of this gently searching novel, Cooney [...] poses a large existential question: What is a soul? Cooney presents a series of vignettes, of deathbed vigils and confessions of the living, that suggest a range of possible answers ... With its evocation of souls and ghosts, this book might well have derailed into queasy terrain. Yet Cooney manages to pull off this balancing act with more than a modicum of humor and charm.