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Hannah Coulter

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,464 Ratings  ·  807 Reviews
"Ignorant boys, killing each other," is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan's wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years sinc ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published September 30th 2005 by Counterpoint (first published 2004)
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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
1st out of 16 books — 15 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Southern Literature
282nd out of 879 books — 2,188 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This was a perfect follow-up to recently reading Berry’s Jayber Crow. It gave me a chance to revisit the fictitious farming community of Port William in north central Kentucky, which barber Jayber Crow considered as a form of heaven. In this tale, published four years later in 2004, Hannah marries into a clan of farmers in Port Royal at the onset of World War 2 and finds her version of bliss there. She records her memories, reflecting back from a point where she is an isolated widow at age 78. H ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Brooke rated it really liked it
Such an insightful book. The sentimental in me really was affected by Hannah's memories and observations of the changing times. It definitely increased my longing to be a part of a community (a "membership", if you will). Anyone want to be a part of my community? We'll all move out to the country and live within walking distance of each other, our kids will grow up together, and we'll experience life's joys and sorrows together. Seriously, when I read books like this, I realize just how old-fash ...more
Ilenia Zodiaco
Brava gente di campagna.
Ma solo io ho desiderato che qualcuno, in questa splendida e bucolica cittadina immaginaria, dove tutto è oro quel che luccica, improvvisamente impazzisse e, brandendo un'ascia, sgozzasse il pastore o - chessoio - diventasse uno stupratore di ortaggi (per citare un'immagine aulica di McCarthy) o si scopasse la sorella, avvelenato da un'orribile e biblica maledizione di famiglia, come ci ha insegnato il buon Faulkner?
Più che un romanzo - per quanto pieno di momenti commov
Feb 25, 2009 Callie rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book is a gift. I first heard about Wendell Berry in college when we were studying nature writers and I think we read some of his poetry. But I haven't really thought of him since then, yet I am so glad I picked this up. I loved this novel. It's about a small farming community and covers the life of one woman in that community. The way people are in this book and their values feel so familiar to me, and I don't find many books like that. And although there is much about this that feels ...more
Feb 28, 2016 Gloria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the life of me, I'm finding any and all words inaccurate and insufficient to relay the painful beauty of Hannah's tough and tender resolution to her world.
Aside from having been "reset," in order to view one's own circumstances with a fresh eye and perspective, it would seem better to simply recommend a read of Wendell Berry's resilient Hannah.

Her words, through his incomparable pen, explain it so much better...
Mar 17, 2013 Jimmy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sloths
Shelves: novel, male, year-2000s, ageing
Normally I would not be drawn to a book like this. But from reading the back cover (the blurbs were actually surprisingly substantive in this case) and the first few pages, it seemed to share many similarities with a book I read earlier this year and loved, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. So I started reading this as if it were The Book of Hannah Coulter. And my initial suspicion was correct, there were many similarities. Both are told from the perspective of an older person who has lived off the ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 17, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it liked it
Hannah Coulter is a straightforward story of a straight life – a type of modern pastoral…
“The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day’s end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes a
Feb 11, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2012
Wendell Berry, perhaps more than any other author, understands the connection people have with place. Not only this, but he has captured the wisdom and grace that age provides to those willing to understand and to learn. This book is profound and prophetic in so many ways--it weaves an emotional web of beauty, happiness, life, faith, and hope. Yet Berry is not a naive optimist. He understands the pain of life and captures it as well as any of the other range of human emotions.

Hannah Coulter tell
Oct 03, 2015 Poiema rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-12
Rich life story of a woman who belongs to a tight-knit family farm community. From childhood to old age, the voice of Hannah Coulter reflects on the significant and the minute moments of her life. She draws a haunting portrait of the rural life that was once so typical but was drawing to an end after WWII. Have we as a culture progressed? Or have we lost the wonderful sense of purpose and community that Hannah recounts in her memoir?

quote: "Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even
Bryana Johnson
Aug 07, 2012 Bryana Johnson rated it it was amazing
Having never read anything at all by Wendell Berry, I had no idea what to expect, and was certainly blown out of the water by his elegant and singing prose. Hannah Coulter explores in beautiful language the vast questions of land and war and children and marriage and memory. It is the voice of the past speaking into the reckless ears of the present day, offering like jewels the wisdom that our age has already chosen to disregard.
Demetrius Rogers
Aug 29, 2014 Demetrius Rogers rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
What a beautiful book, from start to finish, loved it. Loved the insight, loved the tenderness. This a music for the soul. Now I don't agree with what I would take to be some of Berry's conclusions, but my goodness, he deserves high praise for penning such a thoughtful piece of literature.

For a fuller review see:
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Oct 03, 2015 Laysee rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laysee by: Steve Sckenda

I had enjoyed Wendell Berry’s “Jayber Crow” so much I was eager to befriend another character that lived in the same community. It is lovely to return to Port William, Kentucky. I derive pleasure in getting to know Jayber’s friends in a new way. There is Burley Coulter, the life-wire of any party and a talented storyteller. There is consistency in the caring solicitude of Danny and Lyda Branch, the “salt of the earth” couple. The abundant goodwill makes membership in Port William something to co
Jeff Shelnutt
Aug 11, 2015 Jeff Shelnutt rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
I'm hovering between a four and a five on this one. Wendell Berry is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Hannah Coulter has all the elements that characterize Berry's uniquely persuasive narratives. His fiction tends to read like biographies (or autobiographies). Instead of following the traditional curve of tension, climax and resolution, his stories emphasize the characters and their settings. Hardworking, salt of the earth, community-oriented, imperfect agrarians are born, come of age, ...more
May 29, 2014 Joy rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, soft, touching novel of a woman's life on a Kentucky farm from around the Depression right up until modern day. Not only a story of her life, though, but also the history of the farm and how the war, education, government, and machines changed farming's future.
Some beautiful quotes from Hannah herself:

"And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this p
Oct 16, 2012 Melody rated it it was amazing
The plot of Hannah Coulter is not particularly important. In fact I am not sure I could tell you the plot. Instead the narrator, Hannah Coulter, is remembering her life in Port William, her childhood, her marriage, her children and her old age.

The beauty of this book for me was in three ideas that Wendell Berry weaves into Hannah's life. First even though this book is written from the perspective of someone who is old and dying, who has lost so much throughout her life, it is a book filled with
Timothy Butler
Nov 23, 2010 Timothy Butler rated it really liked it
It's beautiful. Berry reminds us that we are constituted by our loves, and that we find peace as we love, and that to love is to be altogether given--to another, to a place, to a people. But more important, he reminds us that we are to love what is before us: "Nathan said, 'Don't complain about the chance you had,' in the same way exactly that he used to tell the boys, 'Don't cuss the weather.' . . . you mustn't wish for another life. You mustn't want to be somebody else."

Against this is the ca
Apr 27, 2014 Kristen rated it it was amazing
[2014] I am always a little worried when I revisit something I loved and recommend that I won't find it holds up to my memories of it. I breathed a sigh of contentment when I finished that it was just as beautiful as I remembered and I had forgotten enough of the beautiful descriptions to render it new to me, even if I recalled the general plot. Wendell Berry is a treasure, even for non-agrarians like me.

[2008] Berry's beautiful writing is always a treat to read, it is graceful and filled with l
Mar 21, 2008 James rated it really liked it
My grandmother wanted me to read this and I understood immediately why. Though she grew up in Missouri rather than the Kentucky side of the Ohio River where this novel takes place, the elements are similar to her experiences. This is an episodic novel that doesn't spend so much time telling a story per se but rather sets a scene and places the characters within it. Very readable, marvelous imagery, plain speaking in its descriptions and the characters have a subtle depth. This is my first Wendel ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Reading Hannah Coulter brought me peace. Having just returned from my grandfather's funeral, I found her words of wisdom (as she looks back on her life) to be true and profound. I only hope that I am as much at peace with my life when I look back on it at her age. Her forgiveness and inability to hold a grudge are hallmarks of holiness. Her ability to "live in the moment" herald a true reception of God's grace. This will be a book I recommend and re-read. I just loved it in every way.
Dec 10, 2015 Quo rated it really liked it
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry is a warmly-rendered story illustrating the author's credo via an extended family of Kentucky folks who for the most part inhabit a world of "making do & doing without" but who take great pleasure in the land on which they and generations of their kind have called home. The primary focus of the novel is Hannah Coulter but Berry has created a community of characters whose universe might be said to mirror Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County on a much smaller & l ...more
Dec 25, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I think that this calls to mind a word to describe Mr. Berry's writing. That word is reverence. This is the story of a woman born in Shagbark who then moves to Port William and becomes part of the "membership". It tells the story of her love for a man who died too young and of her subsequent life with a second husband who "went right on". The reverence is for the land and what it can produce when tended with loving hands. It is for the people who through the love they have for each other and the ...more
Bob Stocker
Jun 07, 2013 Bob Stocker rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry's novel Hannah Coulter tells the life story of a farmer's wife who was born in 1922 and lived into the 21st century. There are few surprises. Many of the events in her life typify the changes in rural America during the last century. Even events that might otherwise be surprising are foreshadowed. Nevertheless, I found the book enthralling. The prose is simple, at times beautiful, and frequently seasoned with wisdom.

This is a book with a message. Berry loves nature and people who l
May 22, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I read about this book in Bookmarks Magazine and I'm glad that I did. It is a simple book about life. It's a life/book where not much happens-just like most of our lives. We are born into a family, receive education, move, marry, have children, see children leave and move on to their own lives and experience a similar cycle of life. Sound boring? It isn't-it is a beautiful life and Wendell Berry tells us the story of Hannah in a simple and beautiful way. Most books that I enjoy are page turners ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Tiphaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-2015
This is one of the books that stays with you after you finish reading them.
I'm not good at writing reviews but I wish I could share how this book was so profoundly touching. The description of the baby, while I had a little newborn next to me, was really beautiful. "She was needed, and then there she of us. at first she was enclosed in her own little being. and then we could see it happening, she began to see out of her eyes."
there is also that beautiful description of the membership. a
Nov 23, 2011 Jessica rated it it was amazing
This book is lovely in its simplicity and its realism. Hannah Coulter reminded me of my grandmother, and reading this book felt so much like conversation with her that I read it slowly, so it would not end. Certainly, this is not the book I would write -- the narrator accepts many of the social norms of the 1940s-70s unblinkingly -- but she was so believable and so likeable that I can't imagine changing a thing. I liked Jayber Crow a lot, but I *loved* Hannah Coulter.
Patrick Hennessy
Aug 28, 2007 Patrick Hennessy rated it it was amazing
I have such a tenderness toward Berry, for his way of thinking, participating in this world, that this, what I want to do here, is not a review at all, certainly not literary, though he is a fine writer, but a recommendation for living, for thoughtfulness. Chapter 10, if I correctly recall, is the only one I did not cry during.
Sep 13, 2008 Holly rated it it was amazing
This is a reflective book, told from the perspective of aged Hannah Coulter as she thinks about her life, her marriage, her choices. The writing is beautiful, the ideas thoughtful, the historical setting interesting. I loved this book!
Jan 26, 2016 Judy rated it it was amazing
Here's the best thing about this book -- and it's a rare thing these days. Everyone in this book, every single one of them, is a good person. I loved spending time with them, soaking in their goodness. They work hard, they love each other, they do their best to raise their children to be good and kind and to work hard. And there is nothing boring about it, because life happens to them and they experience loss and tragedy.

There isn't even what would usually be called a "plot" or a "story line" --
Jan 24, 2016 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2016
I give this book the fivest of five stars! As an old woman, Hannah Coulter looks back on her life in the town of Port William. The book is less about the events of her life as it is profound reflections on love and relationships. I identified a lot with Hannah's thoughts on hope and love and grief. I'm sure others would really resonate with her feelings on children growing up and going away and on aging. The writing is gorgeous, not in a self-conscious way, but in a easy, comfortable, gentle man ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Mmars rated it liked it
I will admit to being a little disappointed in this book. I have wanted to read Berry’s fiction for a long time and intend to read more. On the other hand, my impression may be unfair having recently read two other southern books that I felt captured the idiosyncracies of the people and their communities very well. (Fair and Tender Ladies and Spence and Lila) This just came up flat for me.

I felt like Hannah Coulter had a lot of wisdom to share. She and her husband, Nathan, would have been the s
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Mansfield Public ...: Hannah Coulter Review by Karin Dionne 1 5 Jul 09, 2013 11:48AM  
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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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“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 everything give thanks.”
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. ” 143 likes
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