Wendell Berry, , read by Paul Michael. . Christian Audio, $34.98 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-59644-444-7
Jayber Crow, town barber in Port William, Ky., recounts his life journey, which parallels the decline of sustainable agriculture throughout rural America. The agrarian threads also run through the novel's romantic triangle, in which Crow pines for the heart of the gracious and beautiful Mattie Chapman, whose ambitious “agribusinessman” husband, Troy, embodies the antithesis of Crow's sacred devotion to nature. Veteran narrator Paul Michael effectively portrays Crow's complexities and contradictions as both an insider at the hub of community life and a self-sufficient loner who eschews the material comforts and conveniences of the modern age. As Crow and his friends feast on fried catfish and corn pone at a “water-drinking party,“ Michael's whimsical imitation of the “good, good, good” sound of a moonshine whiskey jug evokes a wistful connection to the joyous simple pleasures of a contemplative existence. Michael's deliberate pronunciation of hard consonant sounds as Crow repeatedly scoffs at the machine-like momentum of “the war” and “the economy” may seem heavy-handed. Yet Berry's activism informs his storytelling, so listeners familiar with his body of work should not be surprised by the political edge.
Reviewed on: 08/27/2007