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Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
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Hannah Coulter (2004)

by Wendell Berry

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Written from the perspective of 70 year old Hannah as she reflects on her life in the small farming community of Port William, Kentucky, this quiet, introspective novel touched me deeply, as few books do. Wendell Berry is a poet and it shows in the rhythm and cadence of his prose, which is beautiful and contemplative. My copy is filled with passages I’ve marked, passages that brought me to tears for the sheer beauty of the insights they contained. This is writing to be savored.

At it’s heart, this is a story of life in a tight-knit community, with all its joys and sorrows, and a way of life that is quickly disappearing. I loved the sense of community, and what it means to live a life of gratitude, giving and receiving love and forgiveness, and the “membership” we all have with those living, as well as with those who have passed on.

You don’t read a book like this for it’s drama, plot, or action but as you read, the quiet beauty grows on you and won’t let go. I loved it!

( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
A coworker suggested Wendell Berry's books. I had not heard of him.The story told from Hannah's perspective at the end of her life.Her stories (and ours really) are of all the people,friends,family,loved ones that come and go in our lives...aka "the membership".Reading her story is like sitting with her as she tells it.This story is insigtful,warm,tender,cruel at times,(but life is often cruel).What we know of people and what we think we know.I hated to see this book end. I cried. I cannot wait to read the rest of Berry's books.Throughout this story I could not beleive it was written by a man.
I would recommend this to anyone that just wants a good read. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
This novel is the story of Hannah Coulter told in first person of her life from the 1920's to the early 2000's. She grew up on a small farm in Kentucky, then after leaving the farm, she tells of meeting her husband(s), and of her life on the farm, raising children, being a part of the small farming community of neighbors, and of old age and the death of her husband. I liked it fine. It wanted to be more poetic and thoughtful than I was in the mood for right now, so it might be my own fault that I didn't like it better. It is the July read for my library book club, and I know the leader who recommended it really likes this author and has read many of his books, many of which are connected to each other. But I'm not inclined to read another one :/ ( )
  TerriS | Jul 2, 2016 |
This was my first trip into Port William, the small, fictional town in Kentucky where several of Berry's novels take place, and I plan to return in the future. The story resonated with me because I was reminded of my home in southern Mississippi and, in particular, the community where my grandfather lived as a cattle farmer. I saw this idea of "membership" lived out before my eyes as a child, and this book reminded me of the blessing it is to be surrounded by a group of people who will love and care for you without some ulterior motive.

This theme of the importance of community runs through all of Berry's writings, and I believe it is a good pushback against the individualism that pervades Western culture. Take up and read Berry's works. ( )
1 vote codyacunningham | May 9, 2016 |
I read Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow some time ago and felt guilty that I did not like it very much. A number of people recommended it to me, but I thought it was just barely average. I received Hannah Coulter as a Christmas present (thank you, Katie and Becky!) and enjoyed it much more than the first Berry selection. The book starts with Hannah, an elderly twice-widowed farm wife and mother of three, saying, "This is the story of my life..." The story is much more than her life, though. Her personal reflections on marriage, war, farming, parenting, friendship, love, loss, and community become universal reflections. The story was sad; the overall theme was the loss of the family farm and the way of life that made the family farm a viable lifestyle. This was a book that could not be read quickly. It calls for pauses and reflections as you read. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
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In the latest installment in Wendell Berry's long story about the citizens of Port William, Hannah Coulter remembers. Her first husband, Virgil, was declared "missing in action" shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, and after she married Nathan Coulter about all he could tell Hannah about the Battle of Okinawa was "Ignorant boys, killing each other." The community was stunned and diminished by the war, with some of its sons lost forever and others returning home determined to carry on. Now, in her late seventies, twice-widowed and alone, Hannah sorts through her memories: of her childhood, of young love and loss, of raising children and the changing seasons. She turns her plain gaze to a community facing its long deterioration, where, she says, "We feel the old fabric torn, pulling apart, and we know how much we have loved each other." Hannah offers her summation: her stories and her gratitude, for the membership in Port William, and for her whole life, a part of the great continuum of love and memory, grief and strength.… (more)

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