Nathan Coulter, Wendell Berry’s first book, was published in 1960 when he was twenty-seven. In his first novel, the author presents his readers with their first introduction to what would become Berry’s life’s work, chronicling through fiction a place where the inhabitants of Port William form what is more than community, but rather a “membership” in interrelatedness, a spiritual community, united by duty and bonds of affection for one another and for the land upon which they make their livelihood.
When young Nathan loses his grandfather, Berry guides readers through the process of Nathan's grief, endearing the reader to the simple humanity through which Nathan views the world. Echoing Berry's own strongly held beliefs, Nathan tells us that his grandfather's life "couldn't be divided from the days he'd spent at work in his fields." Berry has long been compared to Faulkner for his ability to erect entire communities in his fiction, and his heart and soul have always lived in Port William, Kentucky. In this eloquent novel about duty, community, and a sweeping love of the land, Berry gives readers a classic book that takes them to that storied place.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I found out about Wendell Barry from an interview I heard on NPR. I was a little confused at first. When I looked up his work the books were presented kind of randomly. They are all about the same imaginary town in Kentucky populated by the same families. After a little research I realized that you can read them that way. They are all stand alone books even though they are all about he same town and people. That said I still read the book he wrote first, first. This is magical storytelling. As you read, disbelief is suspended, this must be an autobiographical story about real people in a real town. If it's not real it sems it should be. I'm sure thousands of people have tried to find the town on maps and google searches. This is first and foremost a book about family and all that means. It's told through the eyes of Nathan Coulter, the younger of two brothers in the family. He tells us about his brother, his parents, his grandparents, his great grandparents, and his friends and neighbors. Through him we get to live with them for a year or so. We don't watch them. We don't look down attthem from afar. We get to live with them. And when it's over you're not ready to leave. Absolutely engrossing. Very early in the process what happens to the people in the book matters because you care about the people in the book. You know them, like them, and want them to be happy. This book seems just as releventt today as when it was written 40 yrs ago. If you like a good story well told you're in for a real treat. Take your time. It will be over too soon.
This was a nice short story and was very descriptive as is his fashion. I did not care for the gratuitous animal abuse throughout the book though. It added nothing to the story or the character development. So if you dont like reading about animals getting killed in various ways, stay away from this. I ended up trying to skip over most of it.