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Hannah Coulter

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  8,515 ratings  ·  1,459 reviews
Hannah Coulter is Wendell Berry's seventh novel and his first to employ the voice of a woman character in its telling. Hannah, the now-elderly narrator, recounts the love she has for the land and for her community. She remembers each of her two husbands, and all places and community connections threatened by twentieth-century technologies. At risk is the whole culture of family f ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published September 30th 2005 by Counterpoint LLC (first published 2004)
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Jamin No, but you will get more out of it if you read at least Jayber Crow first. That way, you will gain an understanding of The Membership of Port William…moreNo, but you will get more out of it if you read at least Jayber Crow first. That way, you will gain an understanding of The Membership of Port William whose lives intersect so intimately throughout all of Wendall Berry's stories of Port William. A Place On Earth is another good one to read first as the Feltner's play a large role in that book and they are also intricate in Hannah Coulter's younger years.(less)
Susanna This article was helpful to me. I just finished Hannah Coulter, my first book by Wendell Berry.
This article was helpful to me. I just finished Hannah Coulter, my first book by Wendell Berry.

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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  8,515 ratings  ·  1,459 reviews

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Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2012, 2017
Wendell Berry, perhaps more than any other author, understands the connection people have with place. Not only this, but he has captured the wisdom and grace that age provides to those willing to understand and to learn. This book is profound and prophetic in so many ways--it weaves an emotional web of beauty, happiness, life, faith, and hope. Yet Berry is not a naive optimist. He understands the pain of life and captures it as well as any of the other range of human emotions.

This was a perfect follow-up to recently reading Berry’s Jayber Crow. It gave me a chance to revisit the fictitious farming community of Port William in north central Kentucky, which barber Jayber Crow considered as a form of heaven. In this tale, published four years later in 2004, Hannah marries into a clan of farmers in Port Royal at the onset of World War 2 and finds her version of bliss there. She records her memories, reflecting back from a point where she is an isolated widow at age 78. Her go ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it
[2.5] I am both disappointed and unmoved by Hannah Coulter I knew it was going to be a "quiet" novel about an elderly woman's contemplations about her past. For a while I enjoyed her memories. And Berry writes well.

But the novel is so insular it stopped making sense to me. Hannah Coulter lives in Kentucky in the 1930s to early 2000s yet she is completely cut off from the outside world. The only outside event mentioned is WWII, even though Hannah and Nathan have a son who seems to have been of age to b
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am making a gift to myself, a promise to read all of Wendell Berry’s novels. Hannah Coulter is my latest stop on that journey though Port William, and, as always, I am sitting after closing the book with misty eyes and a full heart.

How can one be so wise and yet so human? I felt inclined to mark every other passage, but in the end, I didn’t want to step outside the story even long enough to drag the yellow marker across the page. As is so often the case with Berry, this is not a pl
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Such an insightful book. The sentimental in me really was affected by Hannah's memories and observations of the changing times. It definitely increased my longing to be a part of a community (a "membership", if you will). Anyone want to be a part of my community? We'll all move out to the country and live within walking distance of each other, our kids will grow up together, and we'll experience life's joys and sorrows together. Seriously, when I read books like this, I realize just how old-fash ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is so poetic and thoughtful. So genuine I had to keep checking to see that this was fiction. Hannah is so real. This review by John describes it so well:

Thank you to Lora for urging me to read this.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Angela M, Cathrine
“I began to trust the world again, not to give me what I wanted, for I saw that it could not be trusted to do that, but to give unforeseen goods and pleasures that I had not thought to want.”

Oh, how I loved this book. Wendell Berry is truly a national treasure. While I've previously read many of his poems and essays, Hannah Coulter represents my first experience with Berry's fiction.

"Coulter" is one of the last installments of Berry's novels which are set in the fictional town of Port William, KY.
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the life of me, I'm finding any and all words inaccurate and insufficient to relay the painful beauty of Hannah's tough and tender resolution to her world.
Aside from having been "reset," in order to view one's own circumstances with a fresh eye and perspective, it would seem better to simply recommend a read of Wendell Berry's resilient Hannah.

Her words, through his incomparable pen, explain it so much better...
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book is a gift. I first heard about Wendell Berry in college when we were studying nature writers and I think we read some of his poetry. But I haven't really thought of him since then, yet I am so glad I picked this up. I loved this novel. It's about a small farming community and covers the life of one woman in that community. The way people are in this book and their values feel so familiar to me, and I don't find many books like that. And although there is much about this that feels ...more
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a quiet, simple book about an older woman reflecting on her life. It was a good simple life on a farm that not only sustained her and her husband and children but became them, the fabric of their life. It shows her thankfulness for the life she chose. It also goes into a time of close neighbors, sharing, simplicity, hard work, safety -- a time that seems to be gone. It also addresses her disappointments and losses. The writing just flows and there' so many beautiful, meaningful lines. "W ...more
Many people will enjoy this more than I do. I would not classify it as religious, but instead inspirational in tone. I prefer grittier books; I want to see how people struggle and then maybe resolve their problems. Here we are told the story after it is completed, all solved, by a woman who is happy with her life.

We are told of Hannah Coulter’s life. We are told by Hannah. She is almost eighty. She was born in 1922 and now it’s the year 2000. She lives in the fictive town of Port William, Kentu
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Oh this is gently written and quite a family tale. It's a wonderful window into a woman's life lived in Port William, Ohio farmland from birth in the 1930's to just after the turn of the 21st century.

But is it SAD! It is an ordinary life. And it holds so many connections to all humans in their options for future as they go through becoming adult and also for the saying of goodbye over and over if you live long enough. BUT as much as I wanted to love this gentle voice, and the writing was actual
Carol Bakker
My copy of this book is almost a palimpsest of pencil marks, yellow highlights, and multicolored pen marks from previous reads. I don't love every paragraph. The faith of Port William's characters seems truncated; I don't believe neighborliness itself is enough to sustain a community caught in cultural upheaval.

I read Hannah Coulter in between two landmarks of my life: the 50th anniversary of my mom's death, and 40th anniversary of marrying the man I deeply love and respect.

I have a son who works in manuf
Bryana Joy
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Having never read anything at all by Wendell Berry, I had no idea what to expect, and was certainly blown out of the water by his elegant and singing prose. Hannah Coulter explores in beautiful language the vast questions of land and war and children and marriage and memory. It is the voice of the past speaking into the reckless ears of the present day, offering like jewels the wisdom that our age has already chosen to disregard.
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-12
Rich life story of a woman who belongs to a tight-knit family farm community. From childhood to old age, the voice of Hannah Coulter reflects on the significant and the minute moments of her life. She draws a haunting portrait of the rural life that was once so typical but was drawing to an end after WWII. Have we as a culture progressed? Or have we lost the wonderful sense of purpose and community that Hannah recounts in her memoir?

quote: "Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Berry know how to tell a story and is ability of characters development are exceptional. I could almost compare his writing to Marilyne Robinson but I would way Berry's style and prose are more accessible, so maybe it is the tone that is similar.

This is the story of Hannah, her life , her grief, her love, her second chance. For many reasons, I did relate with her sense of lost of what could have been. This book isn't a feel good book, at time, it is very sad. This is a story about life and how
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sloths
Shelves: year-2000s, ageing, novel, male
Normally I would not be drawn to a book like this. But from reading the back cover (the blurbs were actually surprisingly substantive in this case) and the first few pages, it seemed to share many similarities with a book I read earlier this year and loved, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. So I started reading this as if it were The Book of Hannah Coulter. And my initial suspicion was correct, there were many similarities. Both are told from the perspective of an older person who has lived off the same land ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Hannah Coulter is a straightforward story of a straight life – a type of modern pastoral…
“The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day’s end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes aw
Helena Sorensen
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't feel qualified to write a review of this novel. It's too wise, too sparkling, too timeless. It has made me grieve for things I didn't know I lacked. It has made me look backward and forward and down into the deep places. It has strengthened my love of quiet things and lasting things, strengthened my desire to shape our land and our home. It has brought me to tears of sorrow and joy.

It's one of those books you come back to, one that speaks differently in each stage of your jou
Katie Schuermann
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the book I want always to be reading. It is warm in its welcome, even familial, and the protagonist wishes me no harm. She is sincere, honest, and wise, and I am convinced she is sharing her life stories with me for my benefit.

Mrs. Hannah Coulter (and Mr. Wendell Berry), it is so good to make your acquaintance.
Cece Reed
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first Berry novel. I wanted to buy a book from a local author while visiting in Louisville, KY. The associate at Carmichael’s helped me to pick out a favorite in the Port William series. I have heard a little about this series and thought it was a nice break away from regular fiction. I couldn’t have chosen a better alternative. And I can’t believe I haven’t read him before now. I love to imagine simpler times and places often, probably the older I get.( just turned 50 not long ago). Reading ...more
Jeff Shelnutt
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
I'm hovering between a four and a five on this one. Wendell Berry is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Hannah Coulter has all the elements that characterize Berry's uniquely persuasive narratives. His fiction tends to read like biographies (or autobiographies). Instead of following the traditional curve of tension, climax and resolution, his stories emphasize the characters and their settings. Hardworking, salt of the earth, community-oriented, imperfect agrarians are born, come of age, marry, ...more
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, soft, touching novel of a woman's life on a Kentucky farm from around the Depression right up until modern day. Not only a story of her life, though, but also the history of the farm and how the war, education, government, and machines changed farming's future.
Some beautiful quotes from Hannah herself:

"And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by momen
Demetrius Rogers
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
What a beautiful book, from start to finish, loved it. Loved the insight, loved the tenderness. This a music for the soul. Now I don't agree with what I would take to be some of Berry's conclusions, but my goodness, he deserves high praise for penning such a thoughtful piece of literature.

For a fuller review see:
my link text
Karlyne Landrum
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
No angst, no drama, no victim-mentality, but "just" a compelling, beautiful poem of lives well-lived and their impact on the land. I'm so glad that I've finally got around to Wendell Berry!
Kaitlyn Pindak
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Delightful and rich. A must read.
Hannah teaches you how to live and savor life. Full of love, work and loss. Beautiful.

5/5 stars, most definitely 🌟💛
Rick Davis
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Timothy Butler
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's beautiful. Berry reminds us that we are constituted by our loves, and that we find peace as we love, and that to love is to be altogether given--to another, to a place, to a people. But more important, he reminds us that we are to love what is before us: "Nathan said, 'Don't complain about the chance you had,' in the same way exactly that he used to tell the boys, 'Don't cuss the weather.' . . . you mustn't wish for another life. You mustn't want to be somebody else."

Against this is the ca
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A friend lent me Wendell Berry's Hannah Coulter a few months ago. It's been lying quietly in my stack of books, waiting for me to find time to pay attention to it. Appropriate, because the story itself, about the town of Port William, touches on the theme of being forgotten and left behind in the faster pace of a new age.

Hannah Coulter is a young woman who grows up experiencing war. She graduates highschool, loses a husband, has her first child, and learns to love again. Her life is
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The plot of Hannah Coulter is not particularly important. In fact I am not sure I could tell you the plot. Instead the narrator, Hannah Coulter, is remembering her life in Port William, her childhood, her marriage, her children and her old age.

The beauty of this book for me was in three ideas that Wendell Berry weaves into Hannah's life. First even though this book is written from the perspective of someone who is old and dying, who has lost so much throughout her life, it is a book filled with
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Mansfield Public ...: Hannah Coulter Review by Karin Dionne 1 9 Jul 09, 2013 11:48AM  

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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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“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
“Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.”
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. ” 190 likes
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