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Jayber Crow

(Port William)

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  15,015 ratings  ·  2,301 reviews
"This is a book about Heaven," says Jayber Crow, "but I must say too that . . . I have wondered sometimes if it would not finally turn out to be a book about Hell." It is 1932 and he has returned to his native Port William to become the town's barber.

Orphaned at age ten, Jayber Crow's acquaintance with loneliness and want have made him a patient observer of the human anima
Paperback, 363 pages
Published August 30th 2001 by Counterpoint LLC (first published September 5th 2000)
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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 ·  15,015 ratings  ·  2,301 reviews

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Diane Barnes
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Jayber! You told me your story and now I am drained, and devastated, and full of the joy of having known you. You, sir, are that rarest of things: A good man. A man who did his job, helped his neighbors, loved and laughed when he could, and, all along tried to do no harm.

Let me tell the rest of you about Jayber. Orphaned twice by the age of 10, sent to an orphanage where he got an education and learned to love books, he was told he needed to "make something of himself", so decided he heard t
Oct 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites

We all have different reasons for reading books. It could be just for pleasure, maybe to find a purpose, can be to get a perspective, some of us read to achieve perfection and many among us read to find peace. It is said that some books can change the way we look and live our lives. Jayber Crow is one such book! In fact, at this point, Jayber Crow can be the only book that is needed.

[Wendell Berry, newyorker.com]

Wendell Berry has so brilliantly written this story,
"As I did not know then but know now, the surface of the river is like a living soul, which is easy to disturb, is often disturbed, but, growing calm, shows what it was, is, and will be."

This book was an absolute joy to read and Jayber Crow one of the most wise and gentle souls I have thus far encountered in a piece of literature. Somehow the opportunity to read this book came at the perfect time for me. Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays mark times when we often find ourselves reflecting on
Still waters run deep

That line is old wisdom, recorded in English from 1400, and Latin before that.

A river runs through the town, and Jayber’s life, “a barrier and yet a connection” to other worlds, its many creeks and branches reflected in the digressive storytelling. Jayber is a quiet observer of his small community. He is a contributor and participant as well, but it’s his gentle and generous philosophical musings that form the eddies and undercurrents of this understated novel. The flotsa
Angela M
Nov 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-favorites
This is my favorite kind of story - quiet, seeming ordinary, yet full of life and extraordinary characters. You could easily say what a terrific sense of place is depicted in Port William, Kentucky, but actually it’s the people there that make this place. It’s a remarkable depiction of the time from 1937- 1986, the events of the country reflected in this small town and the lives of the people .

I found beautiful writing that engaged my heart and mind. A first person, intimate narrative gave it t
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: May the song of good hope walk with you through everything
Shelves: dost, read-in-2016
Jayber Crow is an octogenarian barber who sits under the poplars that hedge in his cabin and stares at the reflections on the river water that is always running somewhere, with time floating in swirls of memories of a life fully lived and now suddenly gone, its light extinguished from within. And yet, this very same river erodes the hills and pastures that have crowned Jayber’s home since the beginning of times as if to remind him that everything changes so that the essential remains the same.

Dec 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-reads, audiobook
I won’t waste time posting quotes or attempt to provide a synopsis of the plot, as anything I say would be woefully inadequate. Many readers have done so much more eloquently than I am capable of doing. If you have read Wendell Berry then you know he writes thoughtfully about ordinary life and the mysteries of the world. Covering over 50 years about life in Port William, Berry's prose is full of wisdom and thought-provoking observations about human nature, love, and loss.

My favorite authors writ
Wonderful book that seemed to increase in wonder as I read. Berry's ability to create characters of such "person-hood" amazed me. His creations, beginning with Jayber Crow, seem real, gifted with actual traits (good and not so) as would be found among living, breathing folk. Their experiences seem to reflect American life of this time and place....but I think even more than this place. For me, Berry has captured some elemental realities of American life. Though I have not ever lived in a small p ...more
Sep 07, 2012 added it
Shelves: place
Other reviews have commented on the fictional part of this book, i.e. the life story of Jayber Crow so I will not mention it. Instead I will focus on how this book worked for me.
When I had finished it, I wondered about where I would shelve it (not something I often think of, and a tribute to how much I valued reading it), and I immediately realised it belonged with a group of authors that I have come to love, a group who share a theme, the theme of 'place'. Authors such as Alastair MacLeod, John
Aug 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Time for read through number 4...
Read through #3.
Perhaps it's just one of those stories which only intensifies and becomes greater with each reading...

All I know is that with every reading, the end of this book makes me feel like I need to take a step back from everything-- and really assess the world around me with clearer eyes.
And work toward mercy.


One year later, after my first read through, I am amending my original 4 star rating to
”My rightful first name is Jonah, but I had not gone by that name since I was ten years old. I had been called simply J., and that was the way I signed myself. Once my customers took me to themselves, they called me Jaybird, and then Jayber. Thus I became, and have remained, a possession of Port William.”

A plaintive, nostalgic lamentation on an era and the people living in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky shared through the thoughts of Jayber Crow. A town, a time that arrived see
I must admit, after thoroughly pondering this philosophical novel, that I did not agree with some of the author's idealistic solutions to the world's problems, in particular the naive approach to agriculture and the economy. I will accept that it was not the author's own viewpoint, which I doubt, but that of our dearly beloved Jayber Crown's. However, the novel is a tour de force for lyrical prose and the philosophy behind heaven and hell.

Phew, the impact of Jayber Crow's unrequitted love for Ma
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sara by: Southern Literary Trail
Before I can tell you how much I loved this book, I must tell you that my father, like Jayber Crow, was a barber in a time when the barber shop was a social place and not a styling salon. I loved this very male place, where I could very rarely slip myself into a corner and listen to old men talk about the weather and the crops and gossip about one another in a friendly and civil way. My father was also a self-taught fiddler and music would often pour from the back room of the shop well into the ...more

“Where, I have asked myself, is this reflection? It is not on the top of the water, for if there is a little current the river can slide frictionlessly and freely beneath the reflection and the reflection does not move.”

There’s a saying that you never step in the same river twice. So it seems reasonable for Jayber Crow to ask the question. Where IS the reflection?

Most of his life he wonders what purpose he serves by being alive in the world. Every once in a while he has a sudden epiphany or
Jun 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry smells of wildflowers and country roads, and summer afternoons by the river.

In providing voice to a modest community between World Wars and well after, thanks to its newcomer barber, the book describes a time in Kentucky when generations were changing fast. More slowly, if I’m to trust what I just read, than perhaps in some other States or parts of the world around the same time, but with big questions hanging nonetheless over family traditions, personal freedom and
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by: Steve aka Sckenda
A moving and uplifting portrait of heaven. That’s how Jayber Crow sees it as he reflects on his life as an ordinary man living his life as a barber in close connection to his community in rural Kentucky, Port William. Or maybe I should say an extraordinary man in an ordinary community. What makes Crow special is that he believes in love, even to the point of trying his best to love his enemies. On my part, I found it easy to love him and hated for my time harvesting his wisdom and sensibilities ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An easy five star rating for this one- half way through I already knew it had become one of my favorite books.

Not driven by plot, in fact not "driven" in any sense, this is a story that walks you gently and honestly through many parts of a life. It's hard to put words to a reading experience such as this one that takes you deep into the heart of what it means to live, to be alive. Despite its fiction narrative, "Jayber Crow" feels far closer to a guided mediation on youth and age, Progress vs. n
Connie G
It was such a pleasure to read Wendell Berry's lyrical prose about a quiet, observant man living through the 20th Century. Jayber Crow was orphaned twice as a young boy, first when his parents died and then when his adoptive aunt and uncle passed away. He was sent to an orphanage, spent time at a divinity school until he questioned his faith, and worked some small jobs. But the river that flowed near his rural childhood home called to him, and he made his way back to Port William, Kentucky.

Cathrine ☯️
Less is more.
If the terms environmental activist, organic farming, or sustainable development have a place in your personal beliefs or you’re a fan of Thoreau, Muir, or Gandhi, you will no doubt appreciate or love Wendell Berry and this book. If not, chances are you will really like it anyway. Fair to say he uses this story as a platform to espouse his beliefs, many of which I also embrace, but beyond that it’s an exceptionally and beautifully told tale about a man and the life, or more pertin
I'd had the idea, once, that if I could get the chance before I died I would read all the good books there were. Now I began to see that I wasn't apt to make it. This disappointed me, for I really wanted to read them all.

It says a lot that I started this book on September 23rd, and didn't finish it until November 12th. I meant to read a chapter each day, I really did, but I didn't exactly wake up each morning saying, gee . . . I wonder what madcap adventure ole Jayber's up to today?

'Cause he
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 STARS.

“ I will stand like a tree and be in myself as I am.”

This book as the title indicates is about Jayber Crow. He is looking back on his life and reflecting on the paths he took, to get back to where home was for him.

Jayber Crow is a good, kind man- I would hazard to say, too good. He has lived in Port Williams for most of his life, but for the most part, he has always felt like a bystander.

I would call this a philosophical book. Jayber ponders religion, his place in the world, the justi
Esteban del Mal
Apr 14, 2011 added it
Recommended to Esteban by: Ms. Carda
Pet peeves:

1.) Cars with dealer license plate frames. You bought the car, is it necessary to advertise where you bought it from? For free? This is America, you dumbass. Have some self-respect.

2.) Company vehicles that have an overhead dome light that has some sort of short in it that causes it to light-up whenever I go over railroad tracks, potholes, or spare change in the road at a speed of greater than 3 MPH and consequently makes me feel like the centerpiece in some hackneyed corporate motiva
In the beginning Jayber Crow was a happy child living with his parents in northern Kentucky where life was still pretty primitive. No electricity or indoor plumbing and they grew all their own food. Jayber's parents had died of the flu after WW1 so his childless Aunt and Uncle brought him home to live giving him everything a child could possible need.

The lyrical descriptions of the countryside and Jayber's childhood reminded me of the book The Yearling where young Jody ran wild in rural Florida
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2022, favorites
As much as you would let it, Port William will trouble your heart.

It was my first visit to this small hamlet in the heartland of Kentucky and, as promised, the place was both enchanting and disturbing. Wendell Berry has been writing about this fictional backwater for more than forty years, so it’s not really surprising to discover how much the place and its people mean to him. The real treat for me was in how well the artist can communicate his passion for the small rural community and for its
Oct 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This is one of a number of books and short stories Wendell Berry has written on the fiction town of Port William in Kentucky. There are characters from this novel that appear in other works of his. I read “Hannah Coulter” and liked it a great deal. She was married to Nathan Coulter, and he is mentioned in this book (I think he is mentioned....never mind that I just read it!)..

There is a passage from “Hannah Coulter” as I was reading it that I very much appreciated, and I am glad I placed it in m
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
What do I think of this book? I absolutely hated parts and other parts totally blew me over, the words were so perfect. The author IS an acclaimed poet. I was never indifferent to this book. Either I was furious or astounded by the quality of the writing. Should I give it one star for all the times I felt like dumping it immediately? I cannot give it two or three stars because they are lukewarm ratings. I was never lukewarm to this book. Yes, I liked it a lot, four stars it is. I will explain wh ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this novel was like going through 365 pages of meditation practice.

I’d come from work, read a few pages (chapters aren’t long) and literally get lost in the life of Jayber Crow. His was what you’d call a normal life, but then, I believe all life stories can be as compelling and believable as this one if they’re told in the right way!

This is not a novel of “fireworks” and overly dramatic plot twists which (probably) means that lovers of fast paced stories will certainly get frustrated ab
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This may be one of my all-time favorite books. It reminds me of another beautiful book that I loved, Stoner, but unlike Stoner (which left me depressed and sad), Jayber Crow lifted me up. A wonderful line that to me sums up the book says, "There is a light that includes the darkness." And although Jayber Crow contains many sad things, there is a light that shines through it and keeps it from overcoming the light (to paraphrase the gospel John).

Jayber Crow lives, by many standards, a difficult li
Dec 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I must be honest-I have been looking forward to entering Jayber Crow’s world for some time. My expectations have been very high seeded by the reviews of my Goodread friends.
So now, how did I want to experience this gem? I decided that I wanted to have the intimacy of Jayber sharing his story with me person to person. The closest I could get to that experience was audible and so on a cool rainy day , I entered into Jayber’s world . Within minutes I was captivated.
I found a man with a quiet non
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jayber Crow is an orphan twice over who ends up in an orphanage at age ten. Though later he finds the means to get back to his hometown Port William and become the local barber (whose shop is a social hub), he ultimately chooses a more solitary peaceful life living in a borrowed cabin by the river. A fine story of small community life, the beauty of nature, unrequited love, and a life well lived. The best acclaim for one book is wanting to continue reading the author's work. Luckily there are ei ...more
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Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry - 4 stars 1 13 Jul 26, 2020 10:41AM  
Belmont Book Finders: I found Jayber Crow 1 13 Nov 21, 2016 05:37AM  
Considering a trip to Port William 2 36 Sep 30, 2015 07:38AM  
La Stamberga dei ...: Diario di lettura: Jayber Crow di Wendell Berry 1 5 Nov 16, 2014 11:29AM  
JAYBER CROW 5 104 Sep 19, 2013 01:15PM  

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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
  • A Place on Earth
  • The Memory of Old Jack
  • Remembering
  • A World Lost
  • 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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