I was a freshman in college when I first heard of Wendell Berry. One of my professors read a paragraph from What Are People For, a book of Berry’s essays. In a moment, I was captured by the integrity of his voice and the tender toughness of his truth telling. That moment sent me on a journey. I’ve been reading Wendell Berry ever since.
Some of you are already devotees of Wendell Berry’s work. Others of you haven’t heard of him till this moment. No matter where you fall on the continuum, I’d like to invite you to join me at the next Community Literature Discussion on April 1st to discuss one of Berry’s most celebrated novels, Hannah Coulter.
The book is essentially the memoir of Hannah Coulter, a principal member of the imaginary town of Port William, KY. Now in her seventies, Hannah remembers and memorializes the history and legacy of Port William and the particular experiences of her life there—coming of age, her first job, the loss of two husbands, children who grow up and leave home, community life that binds together and then scatters to the wind. As Hannah walks the landscape of her life and finds, and re-finds, her place in the world, she honors the joys and heartaches that make up human existence in this beautiful and broken world.
Like life, Hannah Coulter will make you smile and weep, often at the same time. As life and joy give way to loss and grief in Hannah’s life, and then somehow come back around to life and joy again, we’re invited to take our own walk through the landscape of our life, to smile and weep, and learn to give thanks for it all.
As Hannah says, “The chance you had is the life you’ve got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people’s lives, even about your children being gone, but you mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
Pick up a copy of Hannah Coulter on the Bookshelf this morning and come join us on April 1st at 7pm to discuss it. Look forward to seeing you then.