cover image A Place in Time

A Place in Time

Wendell Berry. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61902-049-8

Berry (Hannah Coulter) returns home to Kentucky in his 10th volume in the Port William Membership series with 20 new interconnected stories of the sleepy farming community and its townsfolk. Told from various perspectives and in cadenced reflections, these quiet and meditative "relics and scraps of memory" speak eloquently of familial and romantic love, slavery and war, loss and time's slow but inevitable passing, all with a solemnity and candor often found in Faulkner or Twain. While each offering holds appeal, some are more striking than others. "Fly Away, Breath (1907)" visits Granny Dawe on her deathbed surrounded by kin and, despite the somber mood, a sudden "Hooo!" from the nearly departed lends buoyancy to the story. Reckless wonderment unique to adolescence runs deeply through "Andy Catlett: Early Education (1943)" as 10-year-old Andy gets an illuminating bird's-eye view of his mother while awaiting her corporal punishment after tramping through the house covered in chimney soot. "Stand By Me (1921-1944)" shows Berry's delicate treatment of tragedy as a stalwart father loses first his wife to illness and later his eldest son to the ravages of war. For longtime fans and those new to the series, this rich slice of evolving Americana is just as poignant and enjoyable as ever. (Nov.)