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Jayber Crowby Wendell Berry
Synopses & Reviews
From the simple setting of his own barber shop, Jayber Crow, orphan, seminarian, and native of Port William, recalls his life and the life of his community as it spends itself in the middle of the twentieth century. Surrounded by his friends and neighbors, he is both participant and witness as the community attempts to transcend its own decline. And meanwhile Jayber learns the art of devotion and that a faithful love is its own reward.
"While affection and ardor suffuse this seeming effortlessness of art, Berry marries the book's host of amusing and affecting stories and characters to the practical and religious lessons he has learned and striven to communicate during his forty-year literary career. This may be Berry's finest book." Booklist (Starred Review)
"An elegant celebration of the redemptive power of love and community, by the prolific poet, novelist, and essayist. Jayber's hard-won acceptance of loss offers a compelling and — by contemporary standards — quite unusual climax. A precise and moving evocation both of a vanishing lifestyle and of the liberating power of faith." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Jayber Crow is vintage Berry, an elegiac tribute to the dignity and grace of ordinary people rising up human in an ever-more-impersonal world. It's about the redemptive power of love and community. And it's a masterpiece." Chicago Tribune
"It is to Berry's credit that a novel so freighted with ideas and ideology manages to project such warmth and luminosity." Publishers Weekly
"Jayber Crow belongs to the small company of truly remarkable characters in the American novel....This is a fine novel, unforgettable and likely to send new readers of Wendell Berry off to look for his other books." The Bloomsbury Review
"Read [him] with pencil in hand, make notes and hope that somehow our country and the world will soon come to see the truth that is told here." New York Times Book Review
In his latest story about the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, Berry introduces readers to Jayber Crow, his love for his community, and his abiding and unrequited love for one special woman.
For thirty-nine years Wendell Berry has brought us stories from the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. The latest, Jayber Crow, is the story of a man's love for his community and his abiding and unrequited love for Mattie Chatham, a good woman who had too early made one bad mistake. Sent to an orphanage at the age of ten, Jayber grows up knowing of loneliness and want, and learns how to be a watchful observer of human goodness and frailty. With the flood of 1937 he returns to his native Port William to become the town's barber. Slowly, patiently, the observer becomes participant.This is a book about Heaven, writes Jayber, but I must say too that it has been a close call. For I have wondered sometimes if it would not finally turn out to be a book about Hell-where we fail to love one another, where we hate and destroy one another for reasons abundantly provided or for righteousness' sake or for pleasure, where we destroy the things we need the most, where we see no hope and have no faith...where we must lose everything to know what we have had.Sounding themes of love and loss, despair and deepest joy, Berry's clear-sighted artistry in depicting the Port William membership will not soon be forgotten.
Jayber Crow, born in Goforth, Kentucky, orphaned at age ten, began his search as a "pre-ministerial student" at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with "Old Grit," his profound professor of New Testament Greek. "You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time."
"And how long is that going to take?"
"I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps."
"That could be a long time."
"I will tell you a further mystery," he said. "It may take longer."
Eventually, after the flood of 1937, Jayber becomes the barber of the small community of Port William, Kentucky. From behind that barber chair he lives out the questions that drove him from seminary and begins to accept the gifts of community that enclose his answers. The chair gives him a perfect perch from which to listen, to talk, and to see, as life spends itself all around. In this novel full of remarkable characters, he tells his story that becomes the story of his town and its transcendent membership.
About the Author
Wendell Berry is a Kentuckian who wrote and taught in California and New York before returning to the Kentucky River region where he has lived for two decades, writing and farming on seventy-five acres in Henry County. Mr. Berry has emerged as an eloquent spokesman for conservation, common sense, and sustainable agriculture, topics he has pursued in The Unsettling of America, The Gift of Good Land, and Meeting the Expectations of the Land, which he co-edited with agricultural researcher Wes Jackson and conservationist Bruce Colman. He has also written of the Kentucky River country in his novels, including Nathan Coulter and A Place on Earth, and in the short story collection The Wild Birds, Among his collections of literary essays is Standing by Words, an exploration of language as both a source of confusion and a means to understanding. North Point Press has also published Mr. Berry's collections of poetry, A Part and The Wheel, and his collection of essays, Home Economics: Eighteen Essays.
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