Thursday, February 17, 2005

Hannah Coulter: A Novel by Wendell Berry

I am starting my blog with a review of one of the best books that I have read in a long time. This is saying something, as I do read a lot. Being a person who grew up in a rural setting but moved to a suburb, I find this book about rural lives is very thought provoking.

Wendell Berry is a poet, novelist, and essayist, who has often written about rural America, the environment, and moral values. He included all of these elements in Hannah Coulter, which is a first person narrative about a good woman who has led a good life on farms in Kentucky, just south of the Ohio River. During the Depression of the 1930s and the during the Second World War, the community thrives because the farmers and their families naturally form a fellowship and work for each other as needed. Uncle Burley, one of the secondary characters, is known to have worked on every farm in the area without ever being paid a dime. After the war, the cohesion begins to unravel. As the century ends her children and grandchildren have scattered to cities near and far. A question that Hannah asks is whether her children's lives are better than her own.

This would be a good book for discussion groups. I have recommended it to numerous friends.

1 comment:

Dan Trabue said...

I love Burley. If you've only read a few of Berry's works of fiction, be sure to keep an eye out for Burley. He's always interesting and just a damned great character.

If you haven't tried it yet, give Berry's Fidelity a try.