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A Place on Earth

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  2,136 ratings  ·  276 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.

"The e
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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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
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
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
Guy Austin
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1966, fiction
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
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2016, 1940s
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
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
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 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.
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
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
Ginger Bensman
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
This place is Port William, Kentucky, a rural farming community at the end of WWII. Berry, with his smooth, unadorned, and always poetic prose, introduces his readers to the people and place so lovingly, and with such considered care and detail, that one could almost imagine that Jayber and Burley, Earnest, and Ida, live just down the road. A Place on Earth is a place to linger—as refreshing as clear cold water drawn from a deep well, or a late evening spent on a porch swing watching the stars p ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful- about Port William during the Second World War.

“Jayber always finds himself taking up the defense of marriage. Not so much the defense of any particular marriage...but of marriage itself, of what has come to be, for him, a kind of last-ditch holy of holies: the possibility that two people might care for each other and know each other better than enemies, and better than strangers happening to be alive at the same time in the same town; and that, with a man and a woman, this caring and
Scott Guillory
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love revisiting Port William from time to time. Great writing from Wendell Berry.
Kyle Deeter
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent novel. My first taste of Wendell Berry's fiction and the world of Port William left me wanting more. His poetic descriptions of rural living and relatable characters makes one desire the simple life of small town America, but, as Berry demonstrates, even this type of life is not bereft of the common human experience of loss and suffering.
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was the first time I committed to reading Berry's fiction. I have been a long time fan of his poetry and essays, and, to be honest, I was nervous to read his fiction just in case I wouldn't like it. Off the top of my head, I can think of three separate authors whose work in memoirs or creative non-fiction had hooked me, but when I tried to read their novels, they left me strangely cold. I could not ignore the man-or-woman-behind-the-curtain enough to become immersed in the story. I am happy ...more
Kay Pelham
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
This book might have gotten 4 stars if it hadn't been for the long, excruciating drunken scene and faux burial in the penultimate chapter. It wore me out.

I think most of the poignant moments and sentences for me were in the beginning of the book. It gave me high hopes for the remainder. I had previously read Jayber Crow and so was familiar with the author and the people of Port William. I found this story to be sadder all around, and it left me feeling like the characters were without an anchor
What is it to be human? To be mortal? To be a parent, a spouse, a neighbor, a friend, a man? What is right relationship to a place, to each other, to all life? The author shows a way with writing that is beautiful, lyrical, deep, and full of wisdom, pathos, and humor without ever preaching. I loved it and will be looking for Wendell Berry's other novels.
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.
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
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've enjoyed rereading a couple books by Wendall Berry, one of my favorite authors, perhaps you have had to grow up in a rural farming area to appreciate? Wish I could sit and have a chat with Jayber.
Andrew Hoffman
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not sure if this is poetry or prose. Remarkable. Inexplicable.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I looked up my notes that I wrote as I was reading Wendell Berry's A Place on Earth. They are probably all the review I should leave:

A Place on Earth
If you want to cry, read this.

Chapter 11 A Birth
Crying like a baby myself.

I know all of Wendell Berry's books cannot be my favorite, but this one really wants to be.

Some of the funniest and sweetest and saddest of all of Port William lives in A Place on Earth.

As happens in every new Port William book, we get to see the whole membershi
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a beautiful and a hard book. Wendell Berry is incredibly skilled at creating a mood or a kind of sensibility. Reading this book, I felt immersed in the community of Port William. I almost sensed myself a part of it. And the sense of belonging is rooted in a very tactile sense of the natural world of the place. People are inseparable from the land where they and their people have lived for generations. As the spring flowers bloom, the work of the people, their relationships to one anothe ...more
Matt Fowler
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another great tale by Mr Berry. I own a craft beer taproom and I am going to have someone write out Jayber's soliloquy on drinking. By dab that was epic in its scope and masterful in its delivery. I'm hooked. Now I have to read them clean through whether I have a mind to or not. Maybe I need to skip one so I don't start talking like Wendell Berry. Or, the hell with it. I think I will just learn to talk like Jayber. With some practice and some hair tonic, maybe I can hit half the mark.
Chris J
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
My first Wendell Berry fiction. I was encouraged by Berrian scholars to start here and, after reading it, I have no reason to feel they were incorrect. I certainly liked this book enough to read another from the Port William series, but I probably don't feel the desire to read them all...although the thought of earning the merit badge could be tempting.
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was my third book by Berry and a group of short stories about the Port William Membership was a real treat after being introduced to so many of the characters. Berry is an agrarian writer of the first order. His words have a cadence of their own, a cadence of the land. It is a lovely thing to read words so well placed that you see exactly what the writer wants to show you. I enjoyed this more than I expected to.
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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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