Hannah Coulter

( 6 )


"Ignorant boys, killing each other," is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan's wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry's unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter's children, of the Feltners and ...
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Hannah Coulter: A Novel

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"Ignorant boys, killing each other," is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan's wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry's unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter's children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors "live right on."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"This is the story of my life, that while I lived it weighed upon me and pressed against me and filled all my senses to overflowing and now is like a dream dreamed.... This is my story, my giving of thanks." So begin the reflections of Hannah Coulter, the twice-widowed protagonist of this slim, incandescent novel in Berry's Port William series. In 1940, the precocious, innocent Hannah leaves her small Kentucky farming town to work as a secretary in nearby Hargrave, where she meets Virgil Feltner, seven years her senior, who gently courts her. They marry and have a daughter, but Virgil, "called to the army in 1942," dies in the Battle of the Bulge. Love follows mourning, as a kind but driven farmer, Nathan Coulter, returns from combat and woos Hannah. In delicate, shimmering prose, Berry tracks Hannah's loves and losses through the novel's first half; the narrative sharpens as Hannah recounts her children's lives-Margaret becomes a schoolteacher with a troubled son; Mattie ("a little too eager to climb Fool's Hill") flees rural life to become a globe-trotting communication executive; Caleb, Nathan's hope to run the family farm, becomes a professor of agriculture instead. Beneath the story of ordinary lives lies the work of an extraordinarily wise novelist: as Hannah relates her children's fate to her own deeply rooted rural background, she weaves landscape and family and history together ("My mind... is close to being the room of love where the absent are present, the dead are alive, time is eternal and all creatures prosperous"). Her compassion enlivens every page of this small, graceful novel. (Nov. 21) Forecast: Berry's reputation as a moralist may put off some readers, but those looking for an impassioned, literary vision of American rural life and values will find much to appreciate. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly

Susan Denaker brings twice-widowed farm wife Hannah to life with soft-spoken but resolute dignity. As the 20th century closes and a new millennium begins, the elderly-yet fiercely self-sufficient-Hannah reflects on her past, especially the crucial threads of family, community and the soil. Denaker does an especially effective job of portraying the other figures in the "Port William Membership" in a manner that fits the approach of the first-person narrative. She adjusts the octave and tone of the male and female characters of varying ages just enough to set them apart from each another, but listeners can be certain that Hannah maintains full control of her own storytelling. The experience evokes a sublime visit to a beloved grandmother figure with memories and wisdom to impart. A Shoemaker & Hoard paperback (Reviews, Oct. 4, 2004). (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

T.S. Elliot Award®-winning author Berry's series set in the imaginary town of Port William, KY, and begun in 1960 with the story of Nathan Coulter comes full circle with this offering containing the reminiscences of his widow, Hannah. Now alone on her farm, Hannah recounts her life starting with her Depression-era childhood. Narrator Susan Denaker (The Double Bind) manages to impart the feeling that the listener is seated across from Hannah at her kitchen table as she tells her story, making this audio edition extremely successful. Highly recommended for fiction collections in all public, academic, and church libraries. [Audio clip available through www.christianaudio.com.-Ed.]
—Nancy Reed

Kirkus Reviews
A continuation of Berry's Port William, Kentucky, saga (Jayber Crow, 2000, etc.), this one told from the perspective of an elderly farmwife looking back on her life and world. Hannah Coulter comes from that long-past generation of rural Americans who fully expect their lives to pass as uneventfully as their parents' and grandparents' and God only knows how many ancestors' before them. A girl during the hard years of the Great Depression, Hannah experiences want at an early age and learns to make do with little and hope for even less. After growing up on a farm, and after high school, she goes to work as a secretary for a local lawyer and marries her landlady's nephew Virgil, who gives her one daughter just before he goes overseas in WWII and dies in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, she marries Nathan, another veteran, who comes from humbler circumstances but works hard to make a living on a small Port William farm for his wife and stepdaughter and their two subsequent sons. Her story takes in the better part of the late 20th century and amounts to a kind of elegy for the starkly beautiful country life that Hannah had always taken for granted but came to love all the more as it faded into history, victim of economic and social change. Her three children all make their way through college and drift from home to become academics and entrepreneurs, while Nathan is more and more hard-pressed to keep the farm running. When he eventually dies of cancer, Hannah thinks the book has finally closed on the Coulter farm-but last-minute help from an expected quarter gives hope to the possibility that a new generation will take charge of the family legacy. Atmospheric and quietly moving: a talethat manages to avoid outright bathos as it makes its way along the narrow boundary between memoir and nostalgia.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593760786
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 11/9/2005
  • Series: Port William
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 148,831
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    Deceptively simple, absolutely beautiful piece of writing

    All of Berry's beliefs are here: fidelity to one's place on earth, to one's community and the threads that bind it together , to posterity and forebears, to traditions, to the language and its regional variances, to the virtues of hard work, thrift, simplicity, families, neighborliness, raising/eating good food, and 'living right on'. The language of this first person narrative is true, spare, and clear. The chapter about Okinawa was a mild diversion, but understandbly so, and it certainly accentuates some of Berry's themes. Interesting that Berry credits Eugene Sledge's memoirs, which got a lot of air time in the recent Ken Burns documentary on World War II. I have a master's degree in English Lit,and must say Hannah Coulter is one of the best books I've ever read.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2013

    Loved this book

    Loved this book

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  • Posted April 20, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Wendell Berry does not disappoint. I'd not read one of his books in several years...this one gives you respite from much of contemporary fiction with its honest portrayal of loving, hard working, and wonderfully appealing people living in community. Hannah is s role model for how I'd want to live and be. The world Berry writes about is seldom found any more. But it's worth taking time out to read about it.

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    Posted June 24, 2011

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    Posted January 22, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2011

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