Posted by: istop4books | February 9, 2010

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Hannah Coulter Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading this book was like sitting on the porch with my favorite elderly aunt, and asking her to tell me her life story. There were no dramas, no excitement to speak of – just Hannah Coulter’s life, “This is the story of my life, that while I lived it weighed upon me and pressed against me and filled all my senses to overflowing and now is like a dream dreamed…. This is my story, my giving of thanks.” Born in Kentucky in 1922, Hannah leaves her home and her beloved grandmam to work as a secretary in a nearby town. She meet marries Virgil at the height of WWII and soon loses him to the war. Some time later, she marries Nathan Coulter, a hard working WWII vet and farmer who shelters her and loves her in a quiet way. She tells of her 3 children who grow up and leave home, of the heartbreaks and proud moments, of growing up and growing apart; of becoming empty nesters and enjoying their time together. ” When they leave I am sad to see them go, and I am sad that it should seem right that they should be gone.”

Of old age.  “It was lovely after so many years to be living alone with Nathan.  We were living right on. …It was the old happiness of nobody looking, except now nobody was looking almost all the time.  We got so we would be very free with looks and touches and kisses and hugs.  Anybody young would have laughed at us, but now nobody young was here.”

“Even old, your husband is the young man you remember now,  Even dead, he is the man you remember, not as he was but as he is, alive still in your love.”

A favorite quote: “My mind, I think, has started to become, it is close to being, the room of lover where the absent are present, the dead are alive, time is eternal, and all the creatures prosperous.  The room of love is the love that holds us all, and it is not ours. It goes back before we were born. It goes all the way back.”

I don’t think I would recommend this for the under 40 crowd. It moves very slowly and the themes would be hard to recognize unless you’ve lost a kid or two to college or a big job in the city. But for the older crowd, Berry is lyrical and thought provoking and puts on paper what has been rattling around in your head for ages, only hard to express.

View all my reviews >>



  1. I love this book!! I posted a quote from it today on my blog . . . it’s so ‘grounding’ for the soul.

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