Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow

Book - 2000
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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.

Publisher: Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, c2000.
ISBN: 9781582430294
1582430292
Branch Call Number: BERR
Characteristics: 363p. 24cm.

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dennismmiller
Feb 09, 2018

For decades Jonah Crow (aka J Crow, aka J Bird, aka Jayber) was the barber in the small town of Port William, Kentucky. As he himself says, a barber is a magnet for stories, especially in the kind of small town where his shop serves as one of the few social spaces. In addition, Jayber served for years as the church custodian and gravedigger, giving him even more opportunities to know the people of the town, and to share in their living and dying. He is, however, also something of an outsider, being both an orphan, raised and educated elsewhere, and a lifelong bachelor. The novel is the story of how he comes to understand his own living and dying through the trials and travails, virtues and vices of those around him.

Jayber Crow, the novel, is as charming and unpretentious as its protagonist, likewise it is just as patient and unexpectedly deep - unexpected, at least, for those unfamiliar with Berry's other work. For those who do know Berry, his usual themes are masterfully elaborated here - love of neighbor and care for the earth, the importance of community and sense of place, the reality of a cosmic order and the sacredness of work.

WVMLStaffPicks Feb 01, 2015

Berry is a Kentucky farmer, a cultural critic, and a prolific writer whose “Port William” fiction has been compared to Faulkner’s Mississippi. In this quietly touching novel, a man looks back on his difficult but full life and the transitions of the 20th century as felt in his small Kentucky town. A classic.

j
jitterbugjack
Sep 11, 2013

This novel is a beautiful reflection on life, mortality, and nature from a master of prose, poetry, and fiction.

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