Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow: The Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written by Himself
by Wendell Berry

This was recommended to me by a good friend, upon hearing that I'd started reading fiction about farming and small-town life.  He cautioned me that it moves very slowly, and not to get impatient with it.

Maybe it's because I've got the flu, but I wasn't impatient with it for a minute.  It certainly does ramble along, not always logically or chronologically, but it keeps moving and is never boring.

It's the story of a man's life, from childhood outside the small town of Port William, orphaned twice, oppressively schooled at an orphanage and later a college, how he started his trade of barbering and was gradually pulled back by the gravity of his hometown.

There is a good portion of philosophy about God, life, and love, but it's never heavy-handed or proselytizing.  (Holy cow, I spelled that right on the first try!)  Mostly, it is conversational, like an old man telling of his life and what he learned.

I loved it.  It fit perfectly the kind of story I wanted to read just now.  Berry (or supposedly Crow) often describes the life of the river near his home, and the story is like that.  Sometimes slow, sometimes reflective, and sometimes flooded or wild.  Just like life, in his view.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the minutiae of daily life that I forget the whole, beautiful flow of it.

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