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Nathan Coulter

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,162 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
This, the first title in the Port William series, introduces the rural section of Kentucky with which novelist Wendell Berry has had a lifelong fascination. When young Nathan loses his grandfather, Berry guides readers through the process of Nathan's grief, endearing the reader to the simple humanity through which Nathan views the world. Echoing Berry's own strongly held b ...more
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Published March 1st 2009 by Counterpoint LLC (first published 1960)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 24, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”Grandpa had owned his land and worked on it and taken his pride from it for so long that we knew him, and he knew himself, in the same way that we knew the spring. His life couldn’t be divided from the days he’d spent at work in his fields. Daddy had told us we didn’t know what the country would look like without him at work in the middle of it; and that was as true of Grandpa as it was of Daddy. We wouldn’t recognize the country when he was dead."

There is this moment in time, with proper longe
Nathan Coulter: Wendell Berry's Creation of the Port William Community

This novel was chosen as the Moderator's Choice by Laura Webber, "The Tall Woman", for On the Southern Literary Trail for December, 2014.

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4a time to weep, and a time t
Diane S ☔
Nov 19, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think one of the best compliments one can pay an author is to say I felt like I was right there, in Port Williams his made up town, and with Nathan and all his other characters. I felt like I was with them walking through the woods, fishing and coon hunting. At the fair watching Uncle Burly and his ducks, picking tobacco and watching the fight between his brother and father.

The book opens with Nathan and his older brother always together, and then felt the anguish of Nathan as his brother out
A reverence for the land is evident in Wendell Berry's first novel, set in the fictional Port William. Narrated by Nathan Coulter, this is a 1930s coming-of-age story of a boy in a Kentucky family who grow tobacco on a riverside farm. Nathan's father and grandfather are hard men whose lives revolve around working the farm, driving themselves and their family members. The tension between the fathers and sons is broken by Uncle Burley, a relaxed nurturing man, whose vices provide a humorous contra ...more
A nice break from the typical coming of age books I tend to read that have hard lines; journeys that spiral into dysfunctional behavior. This book hits the same points probably, it just does so in a "days gone by" way.

Nathan Coulter is a young man growing up in the transitional period where likely the agrarian lifestyle is waning into a more industrial one. His strongest influences include (in increasing order) his father, his grandparents, and his Uncle Burley (and associates). Lessons from al
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When life is work, the rest of the details have to fit around the long days spent farming tobacco, hunting racoons, and fishing. That's basically what this book is, and well written.

I have always meant to read Wendell Berry and would like to read more.
Diane Barnes
Nov 18, 2014 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I love Wendell Berry's books so much because they always make me feel like there's much more to life than my petty little concerns. Nature girl I am not, but even just reading about the working of the land, the turning of the seasons, and good people maintaining connections with land and family makes me feel the whole "circle of life" thing. It sounds like such a cliché, but it's real. As Uncle Burley comments on a day when an old woman dies and a baby is born: "They put one under, and p ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 17, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like William Faulkner Wendell Berry created his own patch of fictional land and started to people it with his personages.
The colourful characters of Nathan Coulter are the first literary settlers in this land.
“They’ll grieve in this old land until you’d think they were going to live on it forever, then grieve some more because they know damn well they’re not going to live on it forever. And nothing’ll stop them but a six-foot hole.”
The book is a brilliant coming-of-age story – a very special tal
Nov 20, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nathan Coulter is a novel about growing up yes, but more importantly about how we grow into the land and our relationship to Nature. It’s a novel about accepting this land legacy or not for working with the land brings responsibilities and sacrifice; it necessitates unflinching dedication and this process can’t be rushed because if there is one thing that we can be certain of it is that our time to own it, work it and lead offspring along its arduous path will come when it is meant to not before ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More like 3.5 stars (and again, Goodreads, please update your software--a 3.5 is vastly different from a 3).

Kind of interesting to go back and read some of Berry's earlier stuff. Next to Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, Nathan Coulter--in my opinion--does not compare. Doesn't have that sleepy quality; in fact, it seems almost cut up and choppy. Never felt like I knew Nathan as I did Jayber and Hannah. If anything, Burley steals the show.

Whatever the case, I press on with reading the rest of Ber
Jan 18, 2015 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this very short novel made up of five chapters, but the only thing holding it together is the title character. Each chapter is a vignette describing an event or scene in the young boy's life. I suppose it is a coming of age piece, at least that is what the fly leaf says. If you like Southern literature, this just might be your cup of sour mash.
May 19, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exactly what I needed this week, being one of the busiest weeks of the year. An account of a portion of Nathan's life and his family relationships. A very relaxing read. Superb story telling.
Tells of the coming of age of Nathan Coulter, who grew up to marry one of my favorite Port William residents, Hannah Feltner (Coulter.) Berry doesn't sugarcoat the life of a farmer pre-World War Two, but he portrays it with a great deal of respect and dignity. After Nathan's mother dies, he and his brother are sent to live with their grandparents on the neighboring farm. Nathan is profoundly influenced by his idiosyncratic, free-spirited Uncle Burley (one of Berry's best characters.)

This is one
A tiny bit disappointing so soon after having read _Hannah Coulter_, which was so beyond five-point stellar that it would be hard to match it. But by the end of this one, it had well earned the four stars I gave it. Set much earlier in time than _Hannah_, _Nathan_ (who later in life became Hannah's second husband) tells of life in Port William KY from a youngster's point of view, as he's soon coming of age. We see his relationships with his brother, parents, uncle, wider small community, and mos ...more
Joel Pinckney
Aug 02, 2015 Joel Pinckney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book, but I think my least favorite of Berry's fiction (a true testament to him that it still gets four stars). This story tells of much of the childhood of Nathan Coulter, whose story is told further in Hannah Coulter. One interesting element of this book: I think it presents characters that are the least likable of any Berry that I've read so far. Part of Berry's greatness is in the characters he creates and the way they draw you into themselves. That's certainly the case in this novel ...more
This book describes life in rural Kentucky during the depression years of the 1930's. Wendell Berry is such a skilled writer, so even this story of an often stark life was a pleasure to read, except for the occasional cruelty to animals by the men and boys--that was not easy to read. But from reading other works by Berry, I think he was depicting life as it truly was. The other strong element in the lives of these rural people was the loyalty and strong bonds between family, and sometimes friend ...more
Jon Biggerstaff
Feb 24, 2014 Jon Biggerstaff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Berry wields profundity amongst the simple things. Earth, hard work, family. Not a lot happens and when it does Berry does not sensationalize it. Rather he causes the reader to focus less on the event and more on an underlying meaning, like this paragraph -- "While daylight came we sat and looked at the black pile of ashes. We hadn't accepted the fire; we'd been able to fight that as long as it burned. But now, in the daylight, in our tiredness, as if we'd fought all night in a dream, we accepte ...more
Aug 13, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a rich story full of description and beautiful writing. I always enjoy stories set in our country's history, especially in Appalachia, the south and rural America. My grandson has recommended this author from rural Kentucky, not far from Louisville. I googled the area and absorbed the sense of the culture, the hard working farming area. This book is the story of a young boy and his family as he come to terms with life and death, with family values.

I have most of Wendell Berry's book here n
Thing Two
Reminds me a lot of reading Ferrol Sams. His work has been compared to writings by Sherwood Anderson. Like sitting at the feet of your old Southern grandfather and listening to him yarn, except I didn't have an old Southern grandfather ...
Jan 19, 2015 RK-ique rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wonderful writing. More than another coming of age story. The series of vignettes that make up the book piece together a landscape portrait of rural life in early 20th Century Kentucky. We know the land, the rivers, the wildlife and the people. The story unfolds slowly against this sometimes harsh, sometimes pastoral background. Part Faulkner. Part Stegner. Part the land. Beautiful and moving. Thanks for the recommendation William!!
Oct 03, 2009 Margaret rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This first in the Port William, Kentucky series is about Nathan's boyhood. Having already read Hannah Coulter, I am now ready to try some of the in-between books. Berry is a wonderful writer. His descriptions slide in amongst the tales of Burleigh Coulter to his young nephews and carry you away to another time and place.
Jan 27, 2009 Bria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know for sure why I am giving this book four stars. A quiet, slow, brutal-but-still-hopeful-and-not-graphic, real coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in Kentucky. Not much action, but a good, satisfying read.
Aug 10, 2016 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not objective when I read Wendell Berry. He manages to touch a place deep in my heart--a place of longing, sadness, nostalgia maybe, but definitely hope and goodness.
David Kern
Oct 10, 2014 David Kern rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second reading. Great as ever.

Emily Malone
Mar 16, 2016 Emily Malone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I definitely want to read the other books in the series.
Mar 05, 2009 Aeisele rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Berry writes simply and directly. You can never get too much of that.
Jan 23, 2017 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-f, read-in-2017
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2017 Nikki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really hoping I'd enjoy this series but so far it's not nearly as good as I thought it would be. There were parts of this book that were ok but it definitely wasn't great. The entire book was really slow and nothing really happens in it. I probably would have given it more than one star except there is a lot of inappropriate language and things that happen that I don't think need to be included for the story to be told. Also the ending was awful. It starts to build up to something and then ...more
Anna-Kathryn Henderson Kline
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 31, 2016 Jessi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know Nathan Coulter was Wendell Berry's first Port William novel, but I'm Wendell Berrying out of order. I think my love for Hannah Coulter made me enthralled by this book since Nathan's such a silent man in Hannah's story. Meeting him here in his youth, I understand him better.

And today, napping in between chapters, I dreamt in Wendell Berry. I was Burley Coulter, or, at least, the dream was of him/from his perspective. It was at the river with Nathan. Five Stars.
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On the Southern L...: December 2014, Nathan Coulter, by Wendell Berry 29 56 Dec 31, 2014 12:11PM  
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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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“Uncle Burley said hills always looked blue when you were far away from them. That was a pretty color for hills; the little houses and barns and fields looked so neat and quiet tucked against them. It made you want to be close to them. But he said that when you got close they were like the hills you’d left, and when you looked back your own hills were blue and you wanted to go back again. He said he reckoned a man could wear himself out going back and forth.” 1 likes
“Grandpa’s farm had belonged to our people ever since there had been a farm in that place, or people to own a farm. Grandpa’s father had left it to Grandpa and his other sons and daughters. But Grandpa had borrowed money and bought their shares. He had to have it whole hog or none, root hog or die, or he wouldn’t have it at all.” 0 likes
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