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Andy Catlett: Early Travels

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  641 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Berryopens this latest installment of the Port William series with young Andy Catlett preparing to visit a place he'd been to many times before, though this would be an adventure he will take very seriously. Nine years old, Andy embarks on the trip by bus, alone for the first time. He decides it will be a rite of passage and his first step into manhood. Sometimes a handful ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published November 9th 2006 by Counterpoint
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Hannah Coulter by Wendell BerryJayber Crow by Wendell BerryA Place on Earth by Wendell BerryThat Distant Land by Wendell BerryAndy Catlett by Wendell Berry
The Best of Wendell Berry's Port William
5th out of 16 books — 16 voters
The Last MacKlenna by Katherine Lowry LoganThe Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry LoganNice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly HarperPatron Saint of Liars by Ann PatchettAnd One Last Thing ... by Molly Harper
Books Set in Kentucky
58th out of 59 books — 41 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,021)
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Jan 21, 2011 Julie rated it liked it
Another piece in the Port William puzzle, this book describes Andy's trips to visit his grandparents at the age of nine, but written through the lens of time and age, when he is much older. The characters you learn about in Berry's other books are seen through a child's eyes, which always puts a fun, new spin on things. Some quotes I loved:

Speaking of his Grandpa, "I knew that when he was studying he was thinking, but I did not know what about. Now I have aged into knowledge of what he thought a
Dec 07, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A young boy journeys out into the world by himself for the first time. Never mind that he is only going from Hargrave where he lives, to the next town, Port William, to stay with his grandparents. He is venturing out by himself, and we get to share in the adventure. We get to experience his feelings of belonging to the community in which he is immersed. We get to savor the bountiful table enjoyed by these simple people at a time when the country was wracked by war and rationing was a reality. We ...more
Sep 28, 2010 Longfellow rated it really liked it
Shelves: rural-fiction
Have never been disappointed with Berry's fiction. In this short novel, Andy Catlett is nine or ten years old, traveling for three days by himself - for the first time - to visit both sets of grandparents on their respective farms.

He is reflecting on this experience as an older man, and thus the various characters and daily routines on the farms are observed with detail that suggests a second level of depth. Par for Wendell Berry.

Bottom line, this and pretty much all Berry fiction finds me desi
Dec 16, 2015 John rated it really liked it
Wendell takes on the challenge of story telling from the perspective of a child in "Andy Catlett." In this installment in the Port William series, Berry shows us Port William circa 1943 through the eyes of the nine year old boy. Berry is always excellent and this is no exception, although I would catalog it as the weakest of the series that I've read to date. The reason for that, I would suggest, is that I never felt as though Berry was completely successful in bringing us into the eyes of the n ...more
Nov 14, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing
I am very grateful for this story because it has opened up a depth of humanity in simple, small things, that I am prone to forget. While I was born many decades after the events of this story, I have relatives who lived similar stories - visiting grandparents and relatives over the holidays, on small rural farms and towns and seeing the world as it was and as it was changing in some scary, uncomfortable ways.

I can certainly relate to this story, because of other stories told to me from relatives
Eric North
Sep 05, 2013 Eric North rated it liked it
This book, like all of Berry's work, was peaceful and enjoyable. Some good descriptive words that come to mind are open space, silence, wonder, heritage, etc. The short novel is rich, full of detail, and representative of a child's-eye view of visits to Grandparents' homes. Andy Catlett's Early Travels is interesting to me, but only as part of Berry's works as a whole, complimented by references to Old Jack Beechum, Burly Coulter, and Jayber Crow. Another good facet of life in Port William.
Feb 23, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern-lit
The review below is from my blog.
Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett: Early Travels (Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006)

I think Wendell Berry is one of the most talented authors writing today. In his nearly fifty year career, he has published over forty books in three genres (fiction, poetry and essays). Most of these were written while tending a small farm in Kentucky. Andy Catlett is his latest work set in his beloved community of Port Williams, Kentucky, a community that has come alive thro
Teddy Burkhardt
Oct 24, 2015 Teddy Burkhardt rated it it was amazing
For fans of Port William, Kentucky, Andy Catlett captures it in its innocence. This book shows how a young boy growing up in a small farming community might fall in love with it and choose it, as Berry in all of his works implores his readers to do. Parents and neighbors and grandparents all give greater security and love to a child when they not only have affection for the place they live but demonstrate it by working it, making good use of it, and caring for it. Andy Catlett is 9 years old and ...more
Stephen Hicks
Oct 02, 2015 Stephen Hicks rated it it was amazing
While it was a relatively minor addition in the Port William Series, Andy Catlett: Early Travels was by no means a weaker one. I connected with it personally having done extensive traveling as a young child to my grandparents' house for entire summers. Berry's writing, as usual, puts you in a meditative, appreciative, sacramental trance that finds beauty in the smallest of experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative's point of view, Andy as an old man recalling a trip as a young boy; perfect ...more
Barbara Cook
Jul 24, 2014 Barbara Cook rated it really liked it
Never disappointed by Berry. Andy, at nine yrs old, visits his grandparents alone and really begins to grow up. Again, beautifully written!
Austin Roberts
Sep 30, 2014 Austin Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novel
I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Paul Michael.

The value of this book for me comes mostly from the narrative form which reflects critically not only on what happened but on what of the story carries meaning for the narrator much later in life, and the implied analysis of the changes that modernity has brought about. It's a lovely piece of the patchwork of Port William, but I would recommend reading one of the other books of the series (I started with Jayber Crow) so the other chara
A beautiful sleeper of a book. Short, but deep. A young man (9) goes to visit his Grandparents by himself for the first time. I don't think I've ever read a more moving and thoughtful depiction of family and relationships, the awareness of change and loss and the give-and-take between generations and "race". I simply can't do the book justice, I don't have the skill. Leaving you a taste of the book itself is the best I could possibly do.

Pg. 47
"Thoughts of the war led them to speak of Tom Coulter
Oct 04, 2015 Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Wendell Berry's novels are their own breed. They have always seemed more like memoirs to me, and Andy Catlett is no exception. 9-year old Andy is the purported narrator, but much of the reflection comes from his 50-years-in-future self. Berry also uses his novels as a soapbox for his message about the dubious progress humanity has made in the past 70 or so years and about the inherent virtues of more self-sufficient lifestyle of decades past. I don't mind such messages, but it does make for diff ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Dakota rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
A very pleasant Berry read.
May 17, 2015 Rosemary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A swirl of memories, narrated by 9 year old Andy Catlett as he travels, alone, to visit his grandparents the days after Christmas, 1943. In quiet, eloquent prose, this is a collection of memories and people between two times, the time fueled by sunlight, full of horses and thrift, and the time of gasoline powered movement. I love this book and his descriptions of family and love, but also awareness of sadness and hardship, and racism. "no one who has gratitude is the onliest one. Let us pray to ...more
Sep 12, 2010 Joy rated it it was amazing
Another great book by Berry. This would be a great introductory book to
the Port William stories. Probably what I like best in the book is the
quiet, thoughtful observations of people and the times. Andy rode with
one grandfather in a horse and wagon and another grandfather in his car. The difference: "The wagon passed through the country at a speed that allowed your eyes to come to rest. Whatever you wanted to look at in the road ditch or the fencerow or the field beyond, your sight could dwell on
Flatfoot Vertigo
Jan 28, 2013 Flatfoot Vertigo rated it it was amazing
I loved reading andy Catlett. Wendell Berry's writing takes me to a different world, where things are simpler and people are deeply connected to the natural world, but really being overly conscious that they are. His writing brings me the mystery and familiarity that I feel in the woods and in farm country. My grandparents lived out on an acreage in Kansas, cultivating lots of fruit trees and vegetables, and they loved that life. I longed for it for the last 15 years while living in the city, an ...more
May 06, 2010 Nathan rated it really liked it
Seemingly the story of a young boy who makes a journey from his house in town to see his grandparents in the country, yet Berry has used this story as a parable prodding us to turn back from the project of modernity and to the communal, rich ways of our ancestors. In typical Berry-fashion, the book never comes off as commanding or indicting, but rather he invites readers to join him in leading a slower life that is attentive to the sublime.
The boy in the story, Andy, also takes this journey as
Jan 01, 2013 Margaret rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margaret by: Mary Jane Meeker
The pace of this book, as with Wendell Berry's other work, is not unlike the experience of traveling by wagon that Berry so well describes: "Whatever you wanted to look at in the road ditch or the fencerow or the field beyond, your sight could dwell on and you could see it." The story has a spaciousness and a simplicity that allows you slip into it and focus--I add more marginalia to his work than most, about my own history or some project I'm working on, and this is always a delightful experien ...more
Oct 19, 2013 Dorothy rated it really liked it
Wendell Berry is a wonderful writer as well as being a champion of the environment. In his novels, he has created the fictional town of Port William and its surrounding farms and each novel focuses on a different individual or family so that the books are interlinked with the same people, of different generations, moving through all of the books.

In this novel, Andy Catlett is an old man, reflecting on his life and the changes he has seen, not only in his home town but in the Western world as a w
Feb 02, 2008 Mitchell rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Wendell Berry is one of my all-time favorite authors. He writes in a style that imitate his themes of community, place, and belonging. One of the things I most like about Berry is that all of his novels focus on the same community and involve the same characters. Each novel focuses on a different part of the that community and uses a different character to narrate.

In "Andy Catlett, Early Travels," Berry tells the story of a young Andy Catlett traveling to both his grand parents houses during Wor
May 03, 2008 Jasonlylescampbell rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
I just finished my first novel by Wendell Berry (did you know he hand-writes everything?)

Andy Catlett is about (I think) Berry when he was a boy. The novel is told as if Andy is now an old man, but is remembering a trip to his grandparents house during WWII just before he turned 10. These are some of his reflections toward the end of the book.

Time is told by death, who doubts it? But time is always halved--for all we know, it is halved--by the eye blink, the synapse, the immeasurable moment of t
Jul 08, 2015 Loretta rated it it was amazing
This short novel by Wendell Berry describes the trip by nine year old Andy Catlett to visit both sets of grandparents during the week between Christmas and NewYear's, 1943-1944. It is a wonderful description of life in the 1940's including farm work, the transition from non-electric to electric homes and the move from horse-powered to combustion farm equipment. It is mostly a meditation on time and love and the impact of WW II. I really enjoy Wendell Berry's work.
Jul 10, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing
This is the most recent novel in Wendell Berry's Port William series. It's written in memoir style from the viewpoint of an elderly Andy, who is remembering a bus trip he took at age 10 from his home in Hargrave to visit with his grandparents in Port William. The story is filled with nostalgic memories of farm life and country ways, as well as remembrances of Andy's visits with Dick Watson, grandfather Catlett's black hired hand, and his wife, Aunt Sara Jane. He also visits his maternal grandpar ...more
Sep 20, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing
What can I say? Loved this story of Andy Catlett that I have met before in other stories from Wendell Berry about the folks in small town Kentucky during and just after WW II as the world changed forever for the world and for the farming communities of our country. Andy tells a story from his youth of his first trip alone to see his grandparents and how it profoundly changed his life. As an old man, he shares this memory and I asked us along for the he ride. Loved it!
Feb 16, 2013 Poiema rated it really liked it
This is a short book but begs to be slowly savored. It is a reminisce, Andy Catlett looking back at a visit with his Grandparents during the WWII era. When he stepped off the train to be greeted by his kin, Andy was stepping from an aspiring business community back into a rural centered way of living. It is written with a tinge of sadness, as the mature Andy recalls a way of life that is forever gone. There's no real plot or action in this novel, rather, it is a study in personalities. Each char ...more
John Benson
Sep 23, 2015 John Benson rated it it was amazing
This short book takes Andy Catlett, who is the main narrator for two other books in the Port William seris, on a 10 mile bus ride from Hargrave to Port William to visit both sets of grandparents in 1943. The book is short but shows how this short trip was sort of a coming-of-age for Andy. I read it along with A PLACE ON EARTH, which takes place two years later and enjoyed seeing connections with these two books.
Jan 12, 2014 Martha rated it it was amazing
The gentleness of Berry's writing, the beauty of his observations of people and land, the simplicity of plot, yet depth of meaning, all hold me as I'm reading his fiction. His love of stillness, of silence, is not easy to put into words, but Berry does it magnificently.

One passage had me on my knees (page 131):

"I had not seen Burley since the news of Tom's death had come. I didn't have grown-up manners, and I didn't know what to say. When Burley spoke to me, it was as if he was not just greetin
Joel  Buck
Dec 02, 2015 Joel Buck rated it liked it
An average Wendell Berry novel is still a cut above. And that's what this is. It's slight. Bears his usual stamp of the mundane and profound wound up and experienced by a resident of Port William. As always, I'm happy to see Hannah, Jayber, and the other familiar faces. As usual I'm hung up on how ideal this way of life seems in the reading but not sure it's possible again
Oct 01, 2008 Lauren rated it liked it
This is our book club selection for October, and I'm still deciding what I think about it. It took me a REALLY long time to finish, even though it's only 140 pages, and I think I've figured out why. Most books have 3 main components: characters, plot, and setting. This book has plenty of setting, a few characters, but no plot! No wonder it felt like I wasn't moving very fast!

That said, it is a beautiful snapshot of 1940s rural America. We see it through the eyes of Andy Catlett, who, at the tim
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
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“[My grandfather] returned to what he called ‘studying.’ He sat looking down at his lap, his left hand idle on the chair arm, his right scratching his head, his white hair gleaming in the lamplight. I knew that when he was studying he was thinking, but I did not know what about. Now I have aged into knowledge of what he thought about. He thought of his strength and endurance when he was young, his merriment and joy, and how his life’s burdens had then grown upon him. He thought of that arc of country that centered upon Port William as he first had known it in the years just after the Civil War, and as it had changed, and as it had become; and how all that time, which would have seemed almost forever when he was a boy, now seemed hardly anytime at all. He thought of the people he remembered, now dead, and of those who had come and gone before his knowledge, and of those who would come after, and of his own place in that long procession.” 5 likes
“…For many years now, that way of living has been scorned, and over the last 40 or 50 years it has nearly disappeared. Even so, there was nothing wrong with it. It was an economy directly founded on the land, on the power of the sun, on thrift and skill and on the people’s competence to take care of themselves. They had become dependent to some extent on manufactured goods, but as long as they stayed on their farms and made use of the great knowledge that they possessed, they could have survived foreseeable calamities that their less resourceful descendants could not survive. Now that we have come to the end of the era of cheap petroleum which fostered so great a forgetfulness, I see that we could have continued that thrifty old life fairly comfortably – could even have improved it. Now, we will have to return to it, or to a life necessarily as careful, and we will do so only uncomfortably and with much distress. Increasingly over the last maybe forty years, the thought has come to me that the old world, in which our people lived by the work of their hands, close to weather and earth, plants and animals, was the true world. And that the new world of cheap energy and ever cheaper money, honored greed and dreams of liberation from every restraint, is mostly theater. This new world seems a jumble of scenery and props never quite believable. An economy of fantasies and moods, in which it is hard to remember either the timely world of nature, or the eternal world of the prophets and poets. And I fear, I believe I know, that the doom of the older world I knew as a boy will finally afflict the new one that replaced it. The world I knew as a boy was flawed surely, but it was substantial and authentic. The households of my grandparents seemed to breathe forth a sense of the real cost and worth of things. Whatever came, came by somebody’s work.” 3 likes
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