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A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership

(Port William)

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  695 ratings  ·  107 reviews
For more than fifty years, Wendell Berry has been telling us stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. In this new collection, the author’s first piece of new fiction since the publication of Andy Catlett in 2006, the stories date’ ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Counterpoint (first published 2002)
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Start your review of A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership
Most of us, most of the time, think mostly of the past… Nevertheless, in this sometimes horrifying, sometimes satisfying, never-sufficiently-noticed present, between a past mostly forgotten and a future that we deserve to fear but cannot predict, some few things can be recalled.

I’m not sure that’s true of me, even in “horrifying” times: I look sideways or to fiction, and have no interest in genealogy beyond those relatives I have known. Similarly, I condemn slavery, I acknowledge that its leg
Cathrine ☯️
4 ✚ 👩‍🌾 🧑‍🌾 👨‍🌾 🧑‍🌾
In the middle of a pandemic. . .
"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go. . ."

to a place in time, Port William, and I rest in the grace of its world and words and wisdom, and I'm free and at peace for a while.
💚I love you Wendell Berry💚
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it

It had been only three months since I read Wendell Berry’s “Jayber Crow” and “Hannah Coulter” but I had such a longing to return to Port William (PW). It was very natural for me, therefore, to experience an immediate sense of relief to be back within the vast space of that great valley and to feel right at home in “A Place In Time”.

The twenty stories in this book spanned the middle of the 19th to the early 21st century and were told from the perspectives of a range of characters, many of whom se
Kelly Barker
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with Port William and its membership a few years ago through the eyes of Jayber Crow, and all over again through Hannah Coulter.

Reading the stories of the membership; their hurts, failures, successes, love of life, coming together in friendship, moves you to want to get to know them even better. A Place In Time did just that. This book gives you a glimpse of the lives of so many of the members and their interwoven society of how they lived life.
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wendell Berry has been writing poetry and essays on farming life for more than half a century. But he has also written fiction set in Port William, Ky., which rivals William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County in terms of its breadth of imagined historical detail. A Place in Time includes 20 stories that feature familiar characters from earlier novels and stories, but it is not necessary to have read those to get pleasure out of these.

This is a good introduction to many of the families that inhabit
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I took my time with this book, reading a story occasionally & then going back for the next one. The stories are all episodes in the life of Port William, Kentucky, a farming/small town community. The book opens with "The Girl in the Window" set in 1864 and closes with "A Place in Time", where an old farm home place is sold in 2008.

The characters have probably all appeared in other Port William novels; there's a map with farms marked and a family tree for the Catletts, Coulters, Beechums, etc.,
Ian Caveny
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: agrarianism, fiction
Wendell Berry in the preceding two months has quickly become my constant muse and companion. I hear his poems and thoughts anytime I take Route 16 between Gillespie and Litchfield and gaze out upon the wonder of Illinois prairie grass, wherever it lay untamed. And, too, I think of his agrarian insight when I converse with my grandmother, the daughter of farmers from Shipman, or when I visit my mentor in Nokomis, a community practically defined by its farming.

So, more Wendell Berry in my life is
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I grew up, in my twenties by way of listening to a hell of a lot of John Prine and reading Wendell Berry. Mostly his essays. Jim Harrison has helped make sense out of recent years and open places. I can't write objectively about anyone of those three by this point. I have no desire to anyway.

A place In Time is a collection of beautiful stories. I could have, and maybe should have rated it it fives stars, but I feel that way every time I rate a book. I have given four stars to every book I have b
Josh Sieders
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
My first foray into Wendell Berry and I plan to read him again. As a suburbanite through and through, I enjoyed this collection of stories from a farming community in a different time. Berry's prose was elegant as it was plain and somehow managed to romanticize and be real at the same time. I will miss these characters and Port William for a while yet...
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Karen by: Juliette Chien, Jeff Boyd
i was recently introduced to Wendell Berry by Jeff Boyd and Juliette Chien and for this i am quite thankful. the first thing i ever read by Wendell Berry was his poem "Work Song," which i loved immediately. i've also read some snippets from his essays and lectures. i am drawn to the depth and deliberateness of Berry's writing, and to the gentleness of his characters and the simplicity and profundity of their small but honest lives. his stories are so grounded in time and place, and he knows his ...more
Maribeth B.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's official: Elton Penn is my favorite of the Port William membership. The story of Laura Milby, the preacher's life, was especially beautiful. Also: "Mike" was a wonderful story and I'm so glad it didn't end in complete and total tragedy; dog stories have a bad reputation for being horrifically sad, but this one was quite satisfying.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s always great to revisit Port William and it’s characters. My favorite stories in this collection are A Desirable Woman, and Mike.
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading about the struggles of these characters is a comfort to me.
"You think it's awful. And it is. But I'll tell you something. You can't believe it now, but times will come when this won't be on your mind. You won't think of it."
Penney Peirce
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a sublime, down-to-earth writer. LOVE him! The stories really slow you down and take you INTO time so thoroughly that you lose track of it.
Andrew Hoffman
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've never really been drawn to collections of short stories but I loved this book (as I have loved every Wendell Berry book). For someone new to Wendell Berry, I don't think this book is the place to start (try Hannah Coulter or Jaybar Crow). I say this because I found my self continually drawing from previous knowledge of the Port William characters ("the membership") and such knowledge made these stories more intriguing. As for the writing, it is hard to write anything about Wendell Berry aft ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a charming, gentle, humorous, wise book. It's the most recent (last?) of his Port William books, and the only thing I am wondering is whether the people in my book group could enjoy it without having read any of the previous books about the Port Williams membership. I have read only two of the other books, but I may have a higher tolerance for not knowing, and a bigger incentive, than they do. There is a map and a big family tree at the end of the book--wonder if the kindle edition also ...more
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

My introduction into the works of Wendell Berry. These are 20 beautifully written stories about the people and the life of this small Kentucky community over a period of about 150 years, from the Civil War era through 2008. We get to know these good people (and animals, too - see “Mike") through their work, their times of joy and grief, their relationships with the nature, and especially their relationships with each other. Small moments and seemingly unimportant events are loaded with power in
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this collection, just like I loved all the other novels Berry has written. The characters are real. I know them. I feel with them. They touch my heart and soul. This is what life could/should be. People who know you and care about you. It's that simple!
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Wendell's newest, a collection of beautiful short stories - I'll drag this one out for as long as I can, feasting on every word. But of course in the end I had to finish - beautiful and peaceful stories of people and communities that are whole and grounded in the place under their feet.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this community and WB's way of seeing into the heart of people. Many times, I was struck by the deep truth of his characters' comments. I want to start going back through his fiction and reading more about Port William.
Anne White
The stories, as you'd expect, are to-read-again. For those who like the Coulter family saga, "A Desirable Woman" adds yet another piece to the saga. It took me a long time to finish these, but that's just because the reading got scattered between other books.
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book of short vignettes about the loves, lives, and life experiences of the people who live in the town of Port William. The simplicity of the words is what makes this such a brilliant book. Simple words, simple stories, yet so much emotion. Loved this book!
Russell Fox
While I've been a huge fan of Wendell Berry's agrarian and localist essays and arguments for many years, I've never made a serious investment in the writing that Berry is, in fact, most famous for: his fiction and poetry. This is the first collection of Berry's short stories that I've ever read, and it was a good read, though not a great one. Sometimes Berry's elegiac mood--about the collapse of the old farming economy and the post-WWII rise of industrial agriculture--has a pushy intentionality ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it

For more than fifty years, Wendell Berry has been telling us stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. In this new collection, the author’s first piece of new fiction since the publication of Andy Catlett in 2006, the stories date’s range from 1864, when Rebecca Dawe finds herself in her own reflection at the end of the Civil War, to one from 1
Mike Little
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was in college, back in the last century, I read a book by Wendell Barry and recall liking it. For some reason, I've not read anything from him since. I received this one as a Kindle deal and am truly happy to have read it. It's wonderful.

I lived not far north of where this book is set and I had an uncle who lived in that same region in Kentucky. My uncle was a hillbilly, but through him, I met many locals, including farmers from old families. And, even 60 miles north, in the hills of s
Andy Catlett, one of the Port William Membership, speaks of when he was in fourth grade:
Probably because of my early gift for science, I was eager to learn in school. But I was not intellectually stimulated by the schoolbooks or the established curriculum. What I wanted to learn was the precise line between what my teachers would put up with and what they would not put up with. And to draw a line of this sort required much experimentation. My curiosity about the limits of, for instance Miss Hear
Tamara Murphy
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
There is never a wrong time to read Port William stories, and this collection of characters worked its way toward the top of the list of my favorites from Wendell Berry. I’m especially enamored with the preacher’s wife Laura Milby from “A Desirable Woman”. As a preacher’s daughter and now a preacher’s wife, and even with many different life circumstances I totally understood this woman.

“For nearly the whole congregation, or for all of them, and especially the men and children, there was a discon
May 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have finally finished this whole series, and I am sad to say I did not enjoy the majority of the series. I had seen many people give the series great reviews and ratings and that seemed to have enjoyed the books, but I was not impressed with them and wish that I had spent my time reading something else. This book was, like the others, not very good. It was made up of short stories, told from many people's perspectives. Often, you would not know whose perspective the story was from until pretty ...more
Gail Henry
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-adult
Wendell Berry is primarily known as a poet, but IMHO he should be known as an extraordinarily gifted storyteller. I had read half of these stories in another collection, but it was a pleasure to reread those and then move forward to the post-WWII stories and see how the lives of the citizens of Port William evolved until the near present. I often have to pause and reread a paragraph just to really appreciate the artistry of his writing. I have read five of his novels and will seek out the others ...more
J.F. Ethan Rose
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry never disappoints. In his collection of short stories on the Port William Membership, Berry traces through time the development of a rural farming community through a century and a half. Things change for the good and the worse. Lives are begun and ended, the rhythms of labor and rest beat ever on, and children grow old and watch the world change around them. It is a wonderful telling of how a place changes in time, from one moment to the next, and how our lives are all connected t ...more
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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."

Other books in the series

Port William (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Nathan Coulter
  • The Memory of Old Jack
  • The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership
  • Remembering
  • Two More Stories of the Port William Membership
  • Andy Catlett: Early Travels
  • Jayber Crow
  • A World Lost
  • The Great Interruption: The Story of a Famous Story of Old Port William and How It Ceased To Be Told (1935-1978)
  • Port William Novels & Stories (The Civil War to World War II): Nathan Coulter / Andy Catlett: Early Travels / A World Lost / A Place on Earth / Stories

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