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That Distant Land: The Collected Stories

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  769 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
That Distant Land includes twenty-three stories from Wendell Berry's Port William membership. Arranged in their fictional chronology, the book shines forth as a single sustained work, not simply an anthology. It reveals Wendell Berry as a literary master capable of managing an imaginative integrity over decades of writing with a multitude of characters followed over severa ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 24th 2005 by Counterpoint (first published August 1st 2002)
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Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would give it more stars if allowed. Wisdom, humor, laughter, tears, longing, sorrow, gratitude, pride. A collection of short stories covering a period from the 1890's to 1975 set in an imaginary county in Kentucky about farming, neighbors and a distant time with now distant values. Beautiful descriptions of the land, the air, the smells. I laughed so hard during one story that I couldn't breath for a bit. There is a deep underlying goodness in these people that I hope, hope, hope we are not l ...more
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As my husband, children and I drove through Kentucky last month, I got in the habit of looking up in the AAA tour book the little towns we went through. One such town was called Carrollton and actually had attractions. It also stated that the town was founded in 1793 as Port William, the name changing in the mid-19th century. I had just started reading this wonderful book at that time or I would have made my husband stop so I could look around. I suspect if I were there now, the feeling I'd have ...more
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book covers about a century of time in the community of Port William, an imaginary town on the Kentucky River, where it joins the Ohio River on Kentucky's northern border. There are stories starting from the 1860s and carrying up to the 1960s, about the families who lived in the area. There is a great map in the back of the book that shows where these families lived, and a geneology of several families and how they related to one another.
It's poignant and funny, and a view of a land of farm
Kelley Kimble
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book in a long time. A collection of short stories set in the 1800's following several families in rural Kentucky to present times. I listened to this book while driving across a very rural part of Texas to visit my son. It was the perfect setting for the book. And growing up in small towns helped me recognize characteristics of someone I know in each of the characters. I laughed and I cried. It was a beautiful picture of love, families and the cycle of life.
Aaron Van Fleet
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Best book I have ever read. Nothing is even close to it. Read it.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this. If you are a part of the Port William membership, read this. Every story added to the world of Port William and shared so much history and backstory of the people we met in Hannah Coulter, Jayber Crow, The Memory of Old Jack, Nathan Coulter, A World Lost and more.

The story Fidelity is possibly my favorite thing I've yet read by Wendell Berry, but I think especially based on where it falls in this collection and having already loved the characters in the story from some of Berry's nov
Bart Simms
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who appreciates well-written fiction.
I listened to the audiobook, although I also reread several stories in print. This collection portrays several generations of families living and working around the fictitious town of Port William, Kentucky, which is supposedly about an hour or two by car from Louisville. These are white, Christian people, but, although the stories dramatize human feelings and emphasize values, this is not what one would usually label as Christian fiction. The stories span the period from 1888 to 2000, and are s ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's difficult to review Wendell Berry. I have too many thoughts, too many things to say.

There have been mentions in the reviews of "That Distant Land" that Berry slips into sentimentality. I thought a lot about that as I was listening to the book. If sentimentality is an appeal to shallow, uncomplicated emotions at the expense of reason - I don't think Berry is guilty. Although the stories are reflective, slow-paced, and focused on the interweaving of time, relationships and the land, and are d
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have long wanted to like Wendell Berry, but I never had any luck with either his essays or his novels---until now. These twenty-some linked stories cover five generations (1880s to 1980s) of people living in the fictitious small town of Port William, Kentucky. I found them riveting: the language, the descriptions of place, and the depth and variety of the characters. He evokes a simpler time when the relationships with the land, family, and neighbors were paramount. In one story a young man is ...more
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have thrown Berry's books while reading them. Because they're so beautiful! I can't believe a writer of this caliber is still living and we haven't drawn his blood yet so that we can clone him. That said, this book continues his practice of writing beautifully. Mostly. Some of the stories in here will break. your. heart. Certainly. Quickly. Thankfully.
But some of the stories seem a bit.....nostalgic. As if people in the 'old days' farted anecdotes and spoke in folksy iambic pentameter.
Berry i
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful collection of short stories, all taking place in or around a fictional place in Kentucky invented by Berry. By the end of the book, you've become familiar with so many of the names and stories that characters reference, you begin to feel like part of this community Berry has created; like you're hearing your grandparent tell you stories about your distant relatives. Really a touching collection of life-affirming stories. These are slices of everyday life -- usually farm life ...more
Josh Barkey
Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book dragged me kicking and screaming back through time and space into the more measured pace of an agrarian society. I got distracted from time to time, by my modern obsession with ACTION, but ultimately fell in love with these stories, which allowed me to follow a group of people as they were born, grew up, grew old and died. I actually shed a few tears for these people, which I've rarely done since way back in the day when I read, "Where the Red Fern Grows".

I highly recommend that you r
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Reading Wendell Berry is like floating down a peaceful river. These beautiful short stories of farm life in KY kept me the best of company while I sat with my mom during the last week of her life. Berry writes of a rural culture that embraces the presence and wisdom of those members no longer with us - such good timing for reading this.
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Trying something a little different with Berry. I am reading all the novels in "chronological" order according to the chronology given in the ToC of "That Distant Land." The TOC shows where the other novels fit into these collected stories so whenever I come to one, to pull aside and read that complete novel "where" it fits. Its been really good so far.
Kathy Weitz
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
Wendell Berry never disappoints.
Caleb Zahnd
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The short story "Fidelity" may be one of the finest pieces of modern fiction literature ever penned.
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
a modern day ecclesiastes....this author is my role model. love every second of it.
May 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of short stories was not very good. Some of the stories were ok but for the most part I did not enjoy this book. Some of the stories were very inappropriate, some were boring, and some made no sense or did not fit with the rest of the series. I have not enjoyed any of Wendell Berry's books so far in this series, and this book was just as bad as all the others.
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nothing brings to your heart the evanescence of life and the hope of glory like Berry's Port William and its fellowship of souls. I've read Jayber Crow and was already familiar with many of the characters. Reading this collection, I had the same experience of being ripped up into little pieces then put back together again more than once.
Cheryl Gatling
In the first story in this book, "The Hurt Man," five year old Mat Feltner watches as a man, bloodied in a bar fight, runs into his house for refuge. Mat's mother, who has buried three chidren, and always wears black, shelters the man and tends his wounds. Mat sees on her face a "hurt love," and he thinks big thoughts (very big for a five year old) about grief and loss and care for neighbors. I think that "hurt love" that Mat sees on his mother's face, is the soul of Wendell Berry, the author.

Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's everything the Book Description cites. Masterful portrayal of the people and the land over several generations. Humorous, sobering, entertaining, enlightening picture of the 20th century lives of rural Kentucky.
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
From the very first paragraphs of the book I felt as though I’d been given a rare privilege. Not only did Berry's narrative style draw me quickly into the story, but the people he described were so believable in their weaknesses and strengths, that I soon forgot they were fictional characters and felt a secret pleasure at eavesdropping into their lives.

How could I not love gangly Tol Proudfoot who married late in life and never ceased to adore his bride? Or faithful Jack who kept a vigilant watc
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is possible this is not my all-time favorite collection of short stories. But if it's not, then it's certainly close enough to be standing on its toes. On several occasions, tears came to my eyes while reading, not from a particular scene's sadness, but from the sheer beauty of the depth of humanity revealed. I've tried to describe this book to others, citing the fictional Port William location somewhat reminiscent of the old TV show, "The Waltons", but that comparison fails miserably to avoi ...more
Demetrius Rogers
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, audiobooks
I hate giving Wendell Berry a measly two stars. Just doesn't seem right. The man's a beautiful writer. So eloquent, so intelligent, so loaded with thought and care. His stuff just gleams with wisdom and insight. He's actually one of the reasons we bought a little land. Love his perspective. But, this work just did not hold my interest. Maybe it was because of the short-story format. I read his longer works - Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter - and was wowed by them. All of these stories center upon ...more
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Another Wendell Berry book I would give 10 stars if I could. I loved reading this collection of stories after having read all the Port William novels plus "A Place in Time." I didn't expect to be introduced to new characters that I'd love as much as any of the Wendell Berry characters I had already come to know, but oh my goodness, Ptolemy and Miss Minnie Proudfoot just stole my heart. They are delightful and their relationship is so sweet. And "The Discovery of Kentucky" has to be one of the fu ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book enveloped me in the pace of Berry's imagined town of Port William, Kentucky. All of the inhabitants of this hand wrought landscape of farms, fields, and hollows are so fully realized that I ceased to think of them as characters, just people that would pass in and out and through the various stories. Nothing much happens in these stories, yet they depict occasions of great moment. In a pace that is almost geologic they illustrate moments that are universal in human experience at the sam ...more
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Love Wendell Berry. Favorite passage, p. 433:

"In a time when farmers had been told and had believed that they could not prosper if they did not "expand," as if the world were endless, Danny and Lyda had never dreamed beyond the boundaries of their own place; so far as Wheeler knew, they had never coveted anything that was their neighbor's. In a time when farmers had believed that they had to take their needs to market or they could not proposer, Lyda and Danny ate what they grew or what came, fr
Oct 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful collection of short stories with characters from Port Washington, KY. I'd read several of the stories before, but the great thing about this collection was that they were in chronological order of when they happened (including the year). I liked reading about plowing with horses before the grandson plows with a tractor. It just helped fit everything in the space time-wise. Tol (Ptolomy) Proudfoot is one of my favorite characters. He's a farmer who loves his work and his wife ...more
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This book is a collection of short stories related to the people in Port William, Kentucky, a community that Berry has been writing about for many years. I loved seeing them again in this format: the stories are arranged chronologically, and the table of contents shows how they fit into the time frame of the other Port William novels. But it was sad to see the passage of time. At the end, it appears that only Danny Branch and Hannah Coulter's grandson are going to maintain the farming tradition ...more
Sep 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-lit
Really great writing, but short stories are hard for me to enjoy. If I like them, then I don't like them to end quite so soon. I like Bildungsroman lit, so I prefer hefty character development. My two favorites were It Wasn't Me and Fidelity. I like very much Berry's concept of the compilation of short stories that span generations of a town and the inhabitants' relationships to one another. The chronology of the layout and maps were a nice touch. Berry writes in such detail, that it sounds more ...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."
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