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Fidelity: Five stories

(Port William)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,936 ratings  ·  278 reviews
"Berry richly evokes Port William's farmlands and hamlets, and his characters are fiercely individual, yet mutually protective in everything they do. . . . His sentences are exquisitely constructed, suggesting the cyclic rhythms of his agrarian world."--New York Times Book Review. ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 28th 1993 by Pantheon (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  1,936 ratings  ·  278 reviews

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"They practiced an old-fashioned independence, an old-fashioned generosity, and an old-fashioned fidelity to their word and their friends."

The above quote is one I pulled from one of the five short stories offered here by Wendell Berry, an author I can easily call a favorite after just reading three of his works. The quote, however, truly sums up the people that we meet in all of his books, those of Port William, Kentucky. I first fell in love with Berry’s writing over a year ago when I was intr
Diane Barnes
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I believe I could happily spend the rest of my life reading books written by Wendell Berry to the exclusion of other authors. Picking them up one after the other, then starting all over again. His words have the same effect on me as Willa Cather's writing; quiet, gentle, persuasive, making me feel the world is a better place, and leaving me with a sense of peace.

There are 5 stories in this collection, all within the confines of Port William but spanning the entire history of the community. The f
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
About a year ago, I was introduced to Wendell Berry who became one of my most beloved authors. I read three of his books (Jayber Crow, Hannah Coulter, A Place In Time) in a space of three months. Berry writes with a distinctive quietness, a hallowed respect for nature, and an invitation to connectedness. “Fidelity” takes me back to Port William, the rural Kentucky town. There I am restored to the company and comfort of old friends. This is my fourth visit.

Published in 1993, this 200-page book i
This book of short stories is written by Wendell Berry, a philosopher, poet, and purveyor of human souls. If you have not ever read any of his work, you are missing something remarkable. This collection would be an excellent place to begin.

Pray Without Ceasing is the story of one friend killing another, a senseless murder and one that might destroy two families instead of just two men. But in the fictional, but very real, world of Port William, people overcome the baser side of themselves an
“When I stand in the road that passes through Port William, I am standing in the strata of my history that go down through the known past into the unknown; the blacktop rests on state gravel, which rests on county gravel, which rests on the creek rock and cinders laid down by the town when it was still mostly beyond the reach of the county; and under the creek rock and cinders is the dirt track of the town’s beginning, the buffalo trace that was the way we came.”

This powerful collection of five
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"A Jonquil for Mary" -- captured that moment when a young wife realizes her husband truly loves her, truly sees her -- I loved that story's ending. All five stories in this too small collection show Berry's gift of painting the ordinary lives of people with compassion and fullness -- "Making it Home" was another favorite -- oh they are all worth reading more than once. ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Clif Hostetler
Mar 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This book is a collection of five short stories by Wendell Berry. The setting of all the stories is the fictional Fort William community in Kentucky.

Pray Without Ceasing is a story is being recalled from earlier times of a distraught man killing his friend. It had the potential of the beginning of a Hatfield-McCoy sort of family feud. But cooler heads prevailed, and the Fort William community has been peaceful ever since.
"People sometimes talk of God’s love as if it’s a pleasant thing. But it’s
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Oh my. The first story in this collection “Pray Without Ceasing” has made me a Berry fan for life. Thus far I had only read Hannah Coulter and was mildly impressed. But for readers who appreciate the long story and novella form, this story is a must read. The set up of theme and how it spun itself out was absolutely stunning.

In this story, Andy Catlett’s grandmother tells him how his great-grandfather, Ben Feltner, was murdered in 1912 by his friend Thad Coulter. (If you have read any of Berry’
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you still haven’t read Berry, you really are missing out on something that makes you better. All the emotions are present. Family and community, life and death at its best when Berry shares it with you.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've never been a short story fan but I do like Wendell Berry's work. As usual he's writing about the down home folks of Port William, Kentucky, with a theme of supporting friends and family along with big doses of the vast appreciation that they have as farmers and hunters for both farm and forest.
Read for On the Southern Literary Trail 11/18 3.5 stars
Jeff Shelnutt
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm fairly new to the "Port William Membership." I've read enough to know the primary actors and a few of their stories. Still, these five short short tales that serve to fill in gaps left in Berry's novels can easily stand alone. They have, if I'm not playing too loose with words, enlarged my soul and enriched my mind.

Berry continually explores the life and death cycle--its joys and griefs, its momentary losses and permanent gains. He traces the inter-generational connectedness that we share w
Marilyn McEntyre
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I've come back to these stories with renewed gratitude and deep admiration many times. They offer a valuable example of what it means to bring together love of language, love of land, and the practical, kindly understanding of people one has come to love over years of involvement in each other's lives. I read them again recently with a group of very well-read adults, none of whom, to my surprise, had encountered them before. It was a great pleasure to rediscover with them the people of Port Will ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wish I knew how to link reviews. My Goodreads friend, Laysee, writes exactly how I feel about this collection of short stories. Long a fan of Wendell Berry, this book reunited me with people whom I have come to know, love and admire. I think my reading may have been enhanced by already knowing some of the backstories of the characters. However, each story has its own merit.

This was my second reading of the collection. It was selected in a book group and the discussion was interesting. People
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I so enjoyed these stories by Wendell Berry. I think it is a good one to start with if you want to begin reading Berry's writings. These five short stories, although separate, some how combine to give a kind of background of the different characters that are included in his books and tell how they are all related and connected. I had previously read "Hannah Coulter" and did not enjoy it, although Berry seems to get rave reviews from so many. But I think I did not understand the connections and t ...more
Ginny Marie
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever read a book only to envy the author's talent? If only I could be as wonderful a writer as Wendell Berry. The simplicity of his words evoke beautiful images of both scenery and inner beauty of the people he writes about. The five stories in this book are all set near Port William, a fictional town in the farmland of Kentucky. The characters are all connected in some way, just as in real small town life. The faithfulness of the characters are examined in each story; faithfulness to a ...more
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Five of Wendell Berry's short stories collected together in one place. "A Jonquil for Mary Penn" in my mind is one of the most beautiful stories in the English language. I've never read anyone who can make a sad story sing the way Mr. Berry does. If you have never read any of Wendell Berry, this is as good a place as any to begin. ...more
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How does Wendell Berry do it? These short yet poignant stories are incredibly moving. I appreciate how we see true character in each character.
Rachel Watson
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fidelity is set in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, a place so compellingly simple in its friendships and family ties and its connection to the earth and how it sustains us. Each one of these five stories explores another aspect of this comforting world, wrapping the reader in its gentle embrace. If you are looking for stories of love, loyalty and the value of hard work, look no further than this collection by Wendell Berry..
Maribeth Barber
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This slim little volume of stories certainly whetted my appetite for more tales of Port William! The only reason I'm giving it four stars is because I felt a couple of the stories ended too abruptly. Otherwise, I loved it--especially the one about Burley and Danny. WOW. I can't wait to read more Wendell Berry. ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I always, always enjoy visiting Port William. The title story was my favorite.
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have a serious soft spot for the writing of Wendell Berry. Some may think him a bit sentimental, and that's probably fair, but he writes with such love for his characters and the land in which they live that it is hard to resist him; I have given up trying.

For those of you unfamiliar with the novels and short stories of Wendell Berry, they take place in the town of Port William and thereabouts. These are fictional locales in Kentucky, though they are very similar to where Berry has been a farm
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I decided to give this book as a Christmas present to all my brothers and sisters this year . . . because it touched me. It contains five short stories, beautifully written, by Wendell Berry, “an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer,” according to his Wikipedia article.

All five stories are set in a fictional small-town/rural Kentucky community.

The title story in the book—the fourth story in the book—is by far the longest. But I found it profoundly thought-
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Five stories in true Wendell Berry fashion - the kind of writing you want to just float around in, enjoying every poetic moment in the woodsy world he lives in. Phrases that stick with you, such as "Her face, it seemed, had been made to smile. It was a face that assented wholly to the being of whatever and whomever she looked at."
One of the five stories, "Fidelity" (written in 1993) centers on the efforts of an ailing 82-year old's family to help him get better. Instead, the old man is rushed fr
Rachel A.  Dawson
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it
It was originally here that I heard about Wendell Berry, and then I read this about him and wanted to just read everything by him. He's written so much, so I'll spend a lifetime trying to get my hands on all of it, which is a great problem to have. These five stories are all poignant and unique and paint beautiful pictures of his characters that are unlike any others. This was a great read for a breezy summer evening in my hammock between two big trees with a cider in hand.
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Pray without ceasing" the first of his 5 short stories had me weeping on the back deck while I read it. I haven't cried that hard in years. I am a child of forgiveness . . . wow. Absolutely a stunning story.

Some of the others were very good but none were as moving as the first. I enjoyed "Fidelity" a lot because I got to see the end of Burley Coulter's life.
Bill H.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Berry renews one's faith in straightforward storytelling. He has peopled his mythical Kentucky county with characters who have a strong connection to the land and to each other. Wonderful dialogue and wry sense of mountain humor. The story of the soldier returning home and the title story of a son who takes his dying father out of a city hospital stand out. ...more
Daniel Gasperut
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Are you alright? Is a story about two guys walking through the woods to yell across a flooded river. The subject was alright. If that sounds interesting you might like this book too. (Nothing explodes)
Jun 19, 2015 added it
Good stories; I really enjoy Wendell Berry!
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“I know [grandpa’s] hands, their way of holding a hammer or a hoe or a set of checklines, as well as I know my own…. The shape of his hand is printed on the flesh of my thigh as vividly as a birthmark. This man who was my grandfather is present in me, as I felt always his father to be present in him.” — Fidelity, Wendell Berry

As a reader, I enjoy when a story gives voice to my own. I rest in words that sharpen my everyday images — images that can otherwise dull with repetition. I feel my brain s
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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 (8 books)
  • Nathan Coulter
  • A Place on Earth
  • The Memory of Old Jack
  • Remembering
  • A World Lost
  • Jayber Crow
  • Hannah Coulter
  • Andy Catlett: Early Travels

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