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Jayber Crow

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  4,872 ratings  ·  736 reviews
Jayber Crow, born in Goforth, Kentucky, orphaned at age ten, began his search as a "pre-ministerial student" at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with "Old Grit," his profound professor of New Testament Greek. "You have been given que ...more
Paperback, 363 pages
Published August 30th 2001 by Counterpoint (first published September 5th 2000)
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Best Southern Literature
184th out of 843 books — 2,078 voters
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The Best of Wendell Berry's Port William
2nd out of 16 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

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Steve Sckenda
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately." Henry David Thoreau

Jayber Crow moves to Port William because he wishes to live deliberately. Abandoning his life of superiority and solitude, he crosses floodwaters to settle along the banks of the Kentucky River, where he discovers community and home. The river summons Crow to a mystical appreciation of time, community, and humanity. Upon these mysteries, Crow ponders as he barbers hair, digs graves, cleans his church, plants his gar
Read through #3.
Perhaps it's reading with someone's fresh eyes and perspective (thank you, Steve, for your profound thoughts, illuminations, and keen observations)...
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.

Esteban del Mal
Apr 22, 2011 Esteban del Mal 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
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 had 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', with such as MacLeod, McGahern, Lax
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
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
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
Occasionally a book comes along that you savor and don’t mind spending a looong time reading. Jayber Crow tells his contemplative life story at a slow pace. Early on in my reading, the image and voice of Mr. Rogers popped into my head. Not to say they are anything alike!

I absolutely loved Jayber’s way of telling. How he sets up the day or event he wants to talk about, how he goes through his thoughts and philosophies relating to the experience, how he describes the terrain of a place, how he de
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
I found the last chapter and scene disappointing, and the god talk at the beginning of section three had me squirming in a hard, wood pew, but aside from these discomforts, Jayber Crow has all the marks of a classic. This is the Appalachian version of Halldor Laxness' "Independent People," and it's full of wit, fun, and life/death while also focusing on major conflicts in 20th century Appalachia and the greater world---most notably, the loss of Main St. and small-scale farming as the world turns ...more
I’ve had Wendell Berry on the radar for years. In college I frequently babysat for the children of a Berry scholar (as in, wrote a real book about it), and sometimes I thumbed through the books on their shelf. But I didn’t get anything read start-to-finish until now, and I am kicking myself for taking half a decade to get around to it. This author is gently profound, and his prose beautifully marries an understanding of God’s dual revelation (in scripture and nature) with an uncanny knack for de ...more
My wish for every person in the world is that they find for themselves what I have found in Wendell Berry. Word of warning: I will now gush for a while. I absolutely LOVE this book, because here I have found a description of the way I would like to live my life, someone who comes as close to my philosophy (and closer) than I felt I could even hope to find. Here is what I have always vaguely and haltingly hoped for my own life, spelled out gorgeously in vivid and profound detail by a writer who i ...more
Webster Bull
This is a revised version of a review posted on my blog "Witness"

For over a year now my friend Suzanne has been telling me to read Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow. I started it once, but just wasn’t ready for a book about a barber, sorry. And that was after I had read—and adored—Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter.

Jayber Crow is the barber in Port William, a small river town in Kentucky the “membership” of which is the subject of most of Berry’s life’s work. Stil
Erick Petersen
I Read this last year and I must have forgotten to add it to my goodreads. I probably would have given this book five stars at the time I finished it, however, my opinion of the book has since waned. I think a lot of it has to do with reading some of his essays and excerpts. Am I the only one who gets the impression that this is one grumpy dude who lives in KY? Every time I read something by him I hear this recurring subtext that says: "If you are not a pure zero-emissions farmer living off the ...more
I only know of Wendell Berry through Goodreads. I thought"Jayber Crow" might be something I'd like - and it was, although I really dislike most of the reviews of it. (Someone out there is teaching Wendell Berry classes, apparently, and making him tedious in the process.) For me, this book was about the river. Very strongly a book about place and an individual life as a reaction to or an element of it. Really, Jayber Crow's life is exactly like the river.

"I can't look back on my life from where I
This book was really wonderful. Wendell Berry is hypnotic. I enjoyed every minute of the book, and nothing really happened in it. It is the story of the barber in the tiny town of Port William. The town has its characters, and Jayber lives the life of a compassionate, Christian. It has Berry's usual dose of farm-preservation philosophy and environmentalism as well as a call for a return to a simpler, more earth-responsive life. I had to read the last two chapters twice already and plan to read t ...more
Steve Hemmeke
This is the second Wendell Berry book I've read, the first being "That Distant Land." I enjoy the change of pace from theological and cultural blogs or books to "going home" to a place called Port William.

In this installment, Jonah Crow, an orphan who leaves the sleepy riverside village at an early age, answers the call to return and let Port William define him. He self-consciously rejects making something of himself, allowing instead the community into his living room-slash-barber shop. The fol
I'm pretty familiar with Wendell's philosophy and writings, so I'm not surprised at the tenor of the novel. It is simply a story observing the life of man living in the first 80 years of the 2oth century as the small town and farming way of life washes away. I thought his writings were wonderfully reflective on the loss of so much to The News, and The Economy, and in this book, War. From this book, his writings on prayer, heaven, and love are pretty extensive, or at least powerful to me as take ...more
Wonderful writer - love his characters and the little Kentucky town named Port William and surrounding farms.

“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out - perhaps a little at a time.'
And how long is that going to take?'
I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps.'
That could be a long time.'
I will tell you a further mystery,' he said. 'It may take longer.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow: A Novel

“After a while, though the grief did not go away
The simplicity of Jayber Crow is rather deceptive. Themes of the nature of faith, the endurance of love, and discount mark-downs on elder wisdom and dearly held values to make room for progress are beautifully interwoven into this intimate portrait of rural life in transition.

The story was endearing to me--it could have been set just as easily in my tiny western Kansas hometown as in Port William.

Berry's carefully chosen words flow into beautifully succinct phrases. I can only describe them as b
Dec 16, 2012 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Aaron by: Gary Gregg
Shelves: favorites
As a preface, I love Wendell Berry's writing. If you don't, I understand, it's not for everyone. However, this particular book is so much more than his typical novels. It's a treatise on love, manhood, responsibility, and maturity. It is the life story of a small town barber, but it is also the barber's story of small town life. There are so many threads of enjoyment and heartbreak in this novel that there should be something to hold your interest. Whether it is the love story, the evolution of ...more
This is just probably the best book I've ever read. It's written about the kind of people I grew up with, the kind of places I've loved, and the kind of best hopes I have about the way the world really is. I see my grandfather in this book, the woods I played in when I was little, and the kind of community and life I wish still existed in this world. This book moved me in a way I haven't been moved by words in a very long time.
Starting a Goodreads review with “some books come to you right when you need them” feels a bit like starting a valedictorian speech with “Webster’s dictionary defines success as,” but I’m going to do it anyway. Some books come to you right when you need them, as Jayber Crow did for me.

After graduating from college in 2013 I moved back to my hometown, where I spent the year feeling unhappy and unsatisfied with my life. I was 22, had recently gotten my heart broken for the first time, and I was w
Nathan Marone
Jayber Crow is one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read. Its narrative recognizes the dignity of the individual and the necessity of the community. Its vision is of earth but its ideas are not of it. It is a life lived in woe and laughter, in disappointment and satisfaction, in hope deferred and hope realized. Berry wrestles with modern life not just as an old man saddened to see his way of life vanishing, but as a man who knows that change is not value-free. The technology we embrace, th ...more
This book is wonderful.
Rarely, a book (or perhaps the characters in the book) seeps under one's skin and attaches itself to long-term memory and perhaps even more than that to reverence and respect for the death of "membership" as Wendell Berry terms "community" and to the stalwart heritage of our forefathers and bygone past. For me, the reading of this book was a melancholy journey. Brilliantly, I was allowed a glimpse into a bygone era with simple yet unforgettable heroes. Port William left its legacy in my soul.

This is a book to savor. WB is intimately familiar with the landscape and people of small town Kentucky. The details and descriptions make them come alive, and through their peculiarities they become universal. Jayber, orphaned young and sent to an orphanage at 10, tries to study theology, but finds he can't be a preacher because he can't accept the pat answers of his professors and can't keep himself from asking deep questions. He finds his true calling as a barber returning to his home territo ...more
M.G. Bianco
This is, currently, the only fiction work (excluding some poetry) that I've read of Wendell Berry's. I am both disappointed and not disappointed. I am disappointed because this is the only work I've read. I must certainly follow this book with Hannah Coulter! I am not disappointed, obviously, because I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I wonder if there are some who fail to enjoy this book as much as they could because of its seemingly slow start. If they do, then they fail to realize what kind
Dylan Bailey
At a conference in Idaho, Andrew Peterson said this was his favorite novel. That first peeked my interest, and then I met a a guy from Nashville we said that this book changed his life. A big claim, but still, my interest in the book was taken further. After reading this book, although i am hesitant at saying it is my favorite book, I can definitely say it is one of my favorite novels. This novel has also given me desire to read more of Berry's books.
Andrew Tucker
Wonderful. Just finished this book maybe 2 minutes ago, so my thoughts are fresh and still being sorted out.

Berry's prose is poetic, beautiful, and clear. Many books I have read form characters seemingly as if they were in a vacuum, meaning their environment seems to not influence their thought and character. But it is not so in this book, he expresses Jayber's thoughts clearly throughout his formation and considers/uses situations/events in Jayber's life as critical and realistic to what his f
Scene: A seminary, 1935. A student by the name of J. Crow tells his professor that he has too many unanswered questions to be a preacher.

"You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out--perhaps a little at a time."

"And how long is that going to take?"

"I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps."

"That could be a long time."

"I will tell you a further mystery," he said. "It may take longer."

Thus begins the spiritual pilgrimage of Jayber Crow. The
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La Stamberga dei ...: Diario di lettura: Jayber Crow di Wendell Berry 1 4 Nov 16, 2014 11:29AM  
JAYBER CROW 5 81 Sep 19, 2013 01:15PM  
Gentlemint: Finishing Up Jayber Crow 2 5 Jan 31, 2013 07:07PM  
Gentlemint: Jayber Crow - A little over half way through 1 6 Jan 21, 2013 03:46PM  
Gentlemint: Jayber Crow - First Impressions 1 5 Jan 10, 2013 07:51AM  
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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 about Wendell Berry...
Hannah Coulter The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture The Collected Poems, 1957-1982 Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays What Are People For?

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“I don't believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.” 121 likes
“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out - perhaps a little at a time.'
And how long is that going to take?'
I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps.'
That could be a long time.'
I will tell you a further mystery,' he said. 'It may take longer.”
More quotes…