A WORLD LOST by Wendell Berry


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 By the prolific poet, novelist, and social critic (Watch With Me, 1994; Fidelity, 1992, etc.), an elegiac celebration of the end of innocence. Berry's fifth novel and ninth work of fiction is set, like most of his spare, exact work, in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. Andy Catlett, the narrator, looks back from the present at the moment when his idyllic childhood came to an end, in the summer of 1944, when he was nine years old. His beloved Uncle Andrew, a man who savored ``company, talk, some kind of to-do, something to laugh at'' above everything, is shot down, for unclear reasons, by the surly Carp Harmon. It is the first time that death has touched someone Andy knows, and despite the gentle support of his extended family (few contemporary writers dwell as much, or as movingly, on the complex nature of familial love), life suddenly seems less certain and right. Years later, a still troubled Andy attempts to discover why Carp Harmon (who served only two years in a state prison for the crime) killed his uncle. He seeks out his uncle's old friends in Port William, and out of their vigorous talk a portrait of a close-knit, resourceful, modest community emerges, but no easy answers. Memories are hazy, the possibilities raised disturbing but unprovable. What does emerge, though, is a portrait of Uncle Andrew as a robust but troubled man, trapped in a suffocating marriage, uneasy in his responsibilities. Berry deftly balances Andy's investigation into the town's past with an equally moving portrait of his growing realization not only of the sustaining value of memory but of the manner in which people are shaped in enduring ways by what they love. This is a modest, resonant work, both a sharp portrait of a small farming town nursing its secrets over several decades, and a penetrating celebration of the hold of family on the imagination.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1996
ISBN: 1-887178-22-8
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996


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