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A Place on Earth

(Port William)

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  2,626 ratings  ·  352 reviews
Published in 1967, we return to Port William during the Second World War to revisit Jayber Crow, the barber, Uncle Stanley, the gravedigger, Jarrat and Burley, the sharecroppers, and Brother Preston, the preacher, as well as Mat Feltner, his wife Margaret, and his daughter-in-law Hannah, whose son will be born after news comes that Hannah's husband Virgil is missing.

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Paperback, 321 pages
Published May 17th 2001 by Counterpoint LLC (first published November 30th 1966)
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Sonny I've read "Hannah Coulter," then "Jayber Crow," and am currently reading "A Place on Earth." I would say that this is not a "series" in a chronologica…moreI've read "Hannah Coulter," then "Jayber Crow," and am currently reading "A Place on Earth." I would say that this is not a "series" in a chronological sense. You need not read them in any order, but oddly enough the order I have read them worked well for me. Enjoy! Berry is a wonderful author.(less)

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There are few authors who can capture the feeling of a place and the nature of a people as well as Wendell Berry. His fictional place of Port William is achingly real and his recurring use of familiar characters to tell a new story makes you feel as if you are part of that community and have sat in Jayber’s barber shop or traded at Burgess’ store.

This is one of Berry’s sadder novels. It is an exploration of loss, in all its forms, through death and estrangement and longing. Every emotion that ca
The GR book description states that “ In A Place on Earth the central character is not a person but a place: Port William, Kentucky, and the farmlands and forests that surround it, and the Kentucky River that runs nearby.”

I disagree. The characters stand out more than the place. They are alive and real, and it is they that make the story. I do agree that the fictional town, Port William, is well drawn too. It becomes a place with an identity of its own. Life is slower there, simpler, less hectic
Diane Barnes
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As usual, right after finishing a Berry book, it immediately becomes my favorite. This one gave me the chance to read more about my favorite characters in Port William: Burley Coulter and Jayber Crow. I especially like the way Margaret Feltner was portrayed in very few words and scenes. Her strength and faith and courage in adversity were instrumental in Mat Feltner's ability to be the respected man that he became. Hannah Coulter got her own book, but Margaret is every bit as important as a char ...more
Cathrine ☯️
5 🍓🍓🍓🍓🍓
In an interview Ron Rash was talking about the intensity we readers experience with certain books and about a passage in particular he said

"Until then I had entered the books I read, but that was the first book that entered me."

That is exactly how I feel when I read Wendell Berry. This one was particularly immersive and poignant.

I utilized both ebook and audio formats. The narration was excellent.
Connie G
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"A Place on Earth" is a book of deep reflection about family, grief, friendship, and the land. Wendell Berry takes us to the small farming community of Port William, Kentucky during the last year of World War II. Mat Feltner's grandfather and father had passed down their farm to him along with their strong work ethic and a love of their community. Mat and Margaret's son, Virgil, is missing in action in Europe. Virgil's wife, Hannah, is expecting their first child. They are dealing with the unkno ...more
Lori  Keeton
Wendell Berry’s novels of Port William are like coming home. Read just one and you’ll want to read another and another. You’ll soon fall into a calming place where the land is honored and neighbors are your family. You’ll get to know the steadfast and faithful people that inhabit its hills. There is Jayber Crow, the barber with a knack for listening, Mat Feltner, a stand-up man with a heart for his family, Burley and Jarrat Coulter, brothers trying to make amends, Old Jack Beechum, an ambitious ...more
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"But I don't believe that when his death is subtracted from his life it leaves nothing. Do you, Mat?" "No" he says. "I do not." "What it leave is his life. How could I turn away from it now any more than when he was a child, and not love it and be glad of it. just because death is in it?" Her words fall on him like water and like light........"And Mat,"she says "we belong to one another. After all these years. Doesn't it mean something?" It is along time before he answers...."I do not know what ...more
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book ended my journey through the Port William books. It was not written last in the series, we just didn't own it until recently. All nine of these achingly beautiful books have fallen into one of two catergories for me: either it has been "one of the best books I have EVER read" or "Wow. That was gorgeously written, and utterly depressing." This kind of toggled between the two categories. In fact, for the first time in the whole series I caught myself being angry at Wendell Berry for kill ...more
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? It’s a Berry. The people and the place.
Tom Mathews
Feb 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Classic Berry. A gentle story of life in the small town of Port William, where life goes slowly, where war is far away and impacts the town only when its sons stop writing home. If you have ever read any of Berry's books, you will be glad to renew acquaintance with some of the Port William residents and meet others for the first time.

My thanks to Lawyer and all the folks at the On the Southern Literary Trail group for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss this and many other fine books
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My favorite place to revisit, Port William, Kentucky!! Not just the place, but the folks, the sense of community, and as they loving refer to themselves “membership”. I love these souls, whom are the creation of Wendell Berry’s extraordinary mind and storytelling.
Guy Austin
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 1966
This is the second novel of Berry’s I have read.

A Place on Earth, Port William to be exact, is a place that seems as real as some I have driven past without much thought of it. This is a southern farm community in the 1940’s America and it drips nostalgia from each page. In bringing it to life Berry spins a hell of a yarn here. It is filled with incredible detail down to each dew drop on each blade of grass or so it seems. I wonder if in creating this place Berry has indeed counted each hair on
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Interesting book. On the surface, it seemed like a series of vignettes about many different Port Williamites randomly strung together. While it was a pleasure to discover more about the different characters, including the dependable and accommodating Jayber Crow and his counterpart, the rambunctious and garrulous Stanley Gibbs, it was the underlying theme of life and death, the Here and the Hereafter that left a deep impression.

The story is set near the end of World War II. While Port William se
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1940s, fiction, 2016
I just can't get enough Wendell Berry. It's almost mysterious how his writing can be so simple and unflowery and yet so beautiful and powerful. I think what I love so much about Berry's novels is the sense of both contentedness and longing. Each character has something to be grateful for but also something missing; that mixture of feeling is so true to life.

In this book we revisit many of the characters we've met in Berry's other Port William novels: Mat and Margaret Feltner, Jayber Crow, Burley
L.G. Cullens
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Overall, Wendell Berry's fiction I've read centers around or is related to the community of a fictive small Kentucky town named Port William.

Set near the end of WW II this book is threaded around a farmer's struggles in dealing with the news that his son has been listed as missing in action. True to Berry's community approach, Port William serves as the central protagonist involving humorous, sweet, and sad tales of numerous other residents.

This book to me is an immersion course to Berry's fic
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"'But I don't believe that when his death is subtracted from his life it leaves nothing. Do you, Mat?" "No" he says. "I don't." "What it leaves is his life. How could I turn away from it now any more than when he was a child, and not love it and be glad of it, just because death is in it?'" -page 262

I want to record that page number so I may go back and reread it in times of sorrow. This is such a genuine, poignant, soothing book about life and loss. Wendell Berry is truly one of my favorite aut
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am not sure I deserve to read Wendell Berry. At least, I am keenly aware each time I do that I am in over my head. In a manner somewhat similar to the Gospel of John, Berry manages to be simultaneously simple and profound.

A Place on Earth starts very slowly. Berry seems determined to reward only those who can settle themselves into the pace of small-town life and thereby learn the art of patient observation. If at first it seems not much is going on, well, you haven't learned how to see past
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"The leaves brightly falling around him, Mat comes into the presence of the place. It lies clearly and simply before him, radiant as though a light in the ground has become visible. He has come into a wakefulness as quiet as sleep."

Wendell, you did not disappoint. This wonderful book made me laugh, cry, and pause to see the beauty of hot summers, loss, and life.
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is novel in which, on one level, nothing happens. The beauty of the prose is rooted in the details of everyday life in a rural community during WWII - floors swept, wood planed, cows milked, sheep sheared, penny candy bought, alcohol drunk, meals consumed. That's not to say that events don't overtake the central characters -- tragedy, loss, suicide, and war demand our attention, but it's the response of the characters (floors swept, cows milked, meals consumed) that throw those events into ...more
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This meaningful tome touches on every single aspect of life's ongoing journey and bundles it up in the small town of Port William. Wendell Berry is an extremely insightful writer and can bring a chuckle when in includes an unexpected dash of farcical humor in his work. A Place on Earth is very relatable to me in so many aspects. Wendell Barry includes and intermingles what each of us experiences, regardless of species . . . . . . . humans, animals, nature and our galaxy. Nothing is immune from t ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wish I lived in Port William; painful, poignant, precious, peaceful.

I love Berry's writing as it is full of what is at the heart of me. To live deeply with courage and integrity. To be human and yet, whilst recognizing human frailties and limitations, to not let it prevent one from doing the best one can do, and keeping one’s eye on something far greater. To say at the end of each day, 'I tried and tomorrow I will try again until I can’t try anymore.'
And to forgive others liberally even whilst
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book took me back to the old home of my grandparents, and to their quiet, hardworking way of life with simple pleasures. My grandma, especially, was with me again as I savored the beauty of the land. Berry always makes me slow down and immerse myself in his stories.
Mar 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
heavy with both beauty and loss, and so i guess, reality.

also. when i grow up, i want to be a sixty-year-old farmer.
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
oh man. i did not expect this to be so heart-rending but also so full of warmth and wonder and light. i can't wait to read more stories from port william. ...more
Brian Tucker
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not one to rush through. Heavily edited from its original length, it exists as a novel with a short story form. The stories reveal the Port William characters more fully than a standalone novel can. Some great lines from it:

He (Old Jack) has been seen more than once sitting on the back bench of a courtroom, grinning and crying shamelessly as a child while Wheeler makes his closing speech to the jury.

It seems a man is about as easy to lose in this world as a pocketknife.

I used to think t
Jan 05, 2021 rated it liked it
The writing is often beautiful, but sometimes Berry's description of a landscape or a room go on a bit too long for my taste. There are nicely drawn sketches of some quirky characters that are often gently humorous. Berry also does a wonderful job expressing the meaning of work and a feeling of a strong sense of community. That said, it one the most overtly male books I have read in a long time. The women of the book just quietly stand by their men (a Tammy Wynette allusion) as quiet sources of ...more
Stephen Hicks
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
While this was not my initial indoctrination into the life of Wendell Berry's Port William, it would make a superb introduction. It moves gracefully from character to character, diving in just deep enough for the reader to get a true sense of the loss and sorrow and joy and delight that fill each member's life. It stays consistent in its chronology, covering the same events and occasions, and merely shifts from one perspective to another. The common thread that runs throughout the book is the li ...more
A lovely story of farmers and farm life. The land and place, the back drop of the story, is the thread that holds together the individual dramas (and comedies) of the different families and characters depicted. I was inspired by the inextricable link between the characters and the land they farm and the community they are part of. The land really is another member of the community. I was also inspired by the committment to the work of the land of these characters. I aspire to the lifestyle depic ...more
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that I will eventually buy, hopefully the audio book as well. I can't express how much this book spoke to me, it resounded deeply within my spirit. The descriptions of scenes, emotions and characters were the best I think I have ever encountered in my long years of reading. The prose takes you on a slow and thoughtful journey which then gently sets you down within the very essence of the story. This book will stay with me for a long time. ...more
Linda Hart
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is an extended detailed description (too lengthy to classify as a vignette) of a small community , it's people and it's landscape. I found myself thinking, "seriously? Who cares?" & struggled to complete it. It's also very sad & not particularly uplifting. I realize that there are many reviewers who have said this is beautiful prose, but I was not impressed. ...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." ...more

Other books in the series

Port William (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • Nathan Coulter
  • The Memory of Old Jack
  • Remembering
  • A World Lost
  • Jayber Crow
  • Hannah Coulter
  • Andy Catlett: Early Travels
  • The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership
  • Two More Stories of the Port William Membership
  • A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership

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