REMEMBERING by Berry Wendell


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The latest in Berry's series (Nathan Coulter; A Place on Earth; The Wild Birds) about the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky--this short, intensely lyrical novel celebrates ""the hope and dream of membership"" in a community of friends and relations, all of whom share in each other's past and in their respect for nature. But Berry's Luddite passion leads not only to pages of elevating prayer but also to some deadening polemic. In the course of a single day, Andrew Catlett, a bitter, middle-aged farmer who's lost his hand in a picker, discovers that--try as he might to deny it--you must go home again. While attending a lifeless academic conference on ""The Future of the American Food System,"" Andy, who was invited for his cantankerous views, begins his journey through self-pity to redemption, a journey that takes him to San Francisco by whim. Full of contempt for ambitious agribusinessmen and platitudinous agricultural economists, this former journalist endures ""the little hell of himself alone,"" in order to appreciate what he's left behind. Charmed by the city's promise of freedom and sophistication, as much as he's disgusted by the farmer's plight, Andy experiences the cost of anonymity and friendlessness. With endless choice, ""he knows nothing that he wants."" All the while he sifts through family history, reliving episodes from the lives of his ancestors who settled the land, and from his own life. He remembers his flight from home, begun with college, and sustained through years in Chicago. He also recalls a meeting with an Amish farmer, whose sense of need and communalism inspired Andy's return to Port William. On his return home in the present time of the novel, Andy meditates on air travel, and consequently renews his faith in nature, and in the promise of faintly and community. Having overcome his grief and anger, he reconnects his self and his shadow, his mind and his flesh. And it all comes together in a stunning vision of transcendence--a scene of religious revelation. Though somewhat schematic at first--with one-dimensional bad guys and lots of rural rhetoric--this fiction ends as pure poetry.

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1988
Publisher: North Point