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Hannah Coulter: A Novel

(Part of the Port William Series)

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Book Overview

Hannah Coulter is Wendell Berry's seventh novel and his first to employ the voice of a woman character in its telling. Hannah, the now-elderly narrator, recounts the love she has for the land and for... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Such a beautiful story!

I have read many books over the years but can't remember one that has touched me so deeply. Although a city girl, I appreciated the description of farm life and the closeness of those who work the land. However, the details of the feelings and life of Hannah and her husband, Nathan hit home with me. I was at the beach with my husband of 28 years celebrating my 55th birthday while reading the book. Several times I handed the book to him so that he could read the author's view of the beauty of mature love. It was also meaningful to him. The sorrows and eventually, joys, of empty-nesting have never been described so accurately. What an accomplishment of a male writing from a woman's outlook! This is the first book I have read by Wendell Berry but it will not be my last. Thank you, Mr. Berry, for making my birthday so special.

Port William from Hannah's viewpoint

In the last few weeks I've read four of Wendell Berry's novels about the Port William Membership. They are all wonderful revelations of character and community, and character in community. But "Hannah Coulter" is the deepest, most intimate, most moving of them all. Like "Jayber Crow" it's a fully realized novel, not a novella, and it's the only one, so far, that's told by a woman. I was especially fascinated by Hannah's view of her role in the farm work--both as the person who manages the household and as her husband's partner in the fields. "Hannah Counter" is also the first and the only (so far) of Berry's novels in which sexual love within marriage is portrayed directly. I have wondered why in previous stories he just skips over the intimacies of marriage; the only sex, even oblique, is between the men of Port William and the women of Hargrave! Now, in "Hannah Coulter," he writes Hannah's and Nathan's desire for each other with aching sweetness. I don't know how Berry imagines his way inside his characters' skins -- especially his women -- but he does that with supreme skill."Hannah Coulter" is his most recent novel and his most subtle and skillful, and perhaps most poetic. I loved it, and if you are a fan of Berry's fiction and/or poetry, you will too!

Music to the senses....

Dear Mr. Berry, I don't know if you will ever see this, but it is the only way I know of letting you know how much your stories mean to me. I read your books with a highlighter, as there are just too many meaningful passages not to be marked and referenced over and over again. You certainly have a gift for words. The melodious nature of your writing is as addicting as is anything else I have ever experienced. The stories you tell and retell about the citizens of Port William, are for me lessons of a sort. For those of us who sometime wonder what love is, what kindness means, and what it means to be part of something greater than self-serving interests, well, you provide an extraordinary example in your wonderful work. Thank you so much, for the pleasure I get when I read what you have written.

Port William past and future

Wendell Berry has continued the story of the people of Port William and their common sense, appreciation of the meaning and fullness of community, and wiseness about their place in the world. The story is told through Hannah Coulter's eyes as she looks back on her life in the arms of that community. People in Port William don't live in fear. "It was getting on toward dark, but I could see the car well enough, and I didn't recognize it. I hesitated a minute. The country is full of strangers now, and you hear tales. There are , no doubt about it, some people who would knock an old woman in the head more or less on speculation. But I thought "What of it?" and went on out." Hannah's accounts of the two loves of her life and the deepness and fullness of that love are the best descriptions of mature, lasting love that I have ever read. Hannah looks to the future of Port William with some sadness as the lines of generations of farmers have been broken. This is reflected in the paths chosen by her own children. "But did we tell the stories right? It was lovely, the telling and the listening, usually the last thing before bedtime. But did we tell the stories in such a way as to suggest that we had needed a better chance or a better life or a better place than we had? I don't know, but I have had to ask. Suppose your stories, instead of mourning and rejoicing over the past, say that everything should have been different. Suppose you encourage or even just allow your children to believe that their parents ought to have been different people, with a better chance, born in a better place. Or suppose the stories you tell them allow them to believe, when they hear it from other people, that farming people are inferior and need to improve themselves by leaving the farm. Doesn't that finally unmake everything that has been made? Isn't that the loose thread that unravels the whole garment? And how are you ever to know where the thread breaks, and when the tug begins?" Wendell Berry's writing is a gift and I am deeply grateful.

Best book by Berry, best book in America - 2005

This novel is superb. Oh, so Berry may not create hyper plots but then such plots usually numb more than they inspire. He writes from a deep well focusing on place, person, and love. Not love in some sappy, sentimental sense, but love rooted in knowledge. The prose is luminous. It's like Berry found a way to turn his poetry into a novel. This is a deep reading experience. You'll overhear the story of a woman who lost her mother, than her first husband, but found a place in which to make a world, a kind of new world, almost a new Jerusalem (it is sacred ground in the best, ordinary sense).
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