(Review) Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Hannah Coulter
Publisher and Publication Date: Counterpoint LLC. 2005.
Genre: Fiction. Women. Family. World War II.
Pages: 190.
Source: E book copy from Library.
Audience: Readers of women and family stories. This is a thinking story. A thoughtful book.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

 

 

 

Further links on Wendell Berry:
Poetry Foundation
Wendell Berry books
Britannica

Wendell Erdman Berry was born in 1934. He was born in Kentucky. He is a farmer and writer. The Britannica link gives a full biography.

This is the first book I’ve read by Wendell Berry. I plan to read more of his writings.

The title of the book is the name of the main character. Hannah is the voice. This is the story of her life. Her perspective, thoughts, feelings, fears, sadness, wistfulness, joy, longing, and reflection.
The story begins by letting me know some of the big moments: who she will marry, children, and the early part of her husband’s life before the war. So, I was given a little information about the books journey, but I didn’t know the fullness of experiences Hannah lived.
Hannah lived in a rural area most of her life. She is a white woman. She didn’t travel or have the ability to know much about what happened outside her community. She lives in Kentucky. She is born in the early part of the 20th century. She is apart of the Builder’s Generation. The Greatest Generation. People who experienced the Great Depression and World War II.
I’ve read a few reviews on this book and readers have been bothered that Hannah does not know people of other races. They don’t understand how this could be true. If you live in a rural area and amongst people who look like you do. If there isn’t Internet, and desegregation has not happened, and when going to town you don’t encounter people of another race, then that experience is not apart of your life. This is a different time period. This is history. People in history lived differently than we do.
A second point on this topic: Hannah shared about herself, family, and close friends. This was her world. She wrote about what she knew. When an event (World War II) impacted herself or family she reflected on it.
A final point: Hannah’s life experiences are things that people of any race or gender can identify. For example: an amazing grandmother.
I think it’s interesting Wendell Berry does not use technology. It’s possible that his non use of technology is transferred to the female character of Hannah. Internet makes the world closer to home. This is a personal choice to use or not use technology.

What I love about this story:
•Hannah shares her wisdom. When she realizes she has made a mistake about a perception or judgement of a person, she admits this and what she’s learned. I’m able to watch Hannah grow into the woman she becomes. Through life experiences, how she handles them, what she learns from them, and how she makes peace.
•She is a patient person. She knew her husband suffered from PTSD, but did not push him to reveal what he didn’t want to reveal. She was just there, beside him, and in a loving manner she loved him as best she could.
•She greets changes in life with grace. She had hard life experiences. She had joy. She raised children and watched them depart from home. At each stage, she had the grace to meet those challenges.
•Hannah is a person of gratitude. Even while experiencing grief, Hannah has reasons to be thankful.
•She reflects on the past, but lives in the present.
•This book is filled with memorable quotes. Quotes that are sheer beauty. They are filled with emotion. They prick the heart.
•She is okay with silence. She is not a woman or person who needs noise to fill her senses. She is okay with silence. She is okay with the quiet but hardworking life in rural Kentucky.
•Hannah Coulter is the story about the dynamics of relationships. Husbands and wives, parents and children, women who help other women, and friends.

Final Thoughts:
•It’s rare for me to cry while reading a book. I shed tears while reading the ending.
•This is a book that in some way most readers can relate or identify with.
•This is one of the most memorable and touching stories I’ve read.

A final point. I promise!
Wendell Berry writes long sentences. I counted 142 words in one sentence.
Do you remember a famous author who wrote lengthy sentences?

(Review) Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Lilli de Jong

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Books. Paperback published July 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 352.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Anchor Books, but I’m not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend.
Audience: Historical fiction fans. Readers of books about strong women.

Amazon

It’s been a long time since a fiction book has stirred my heart with conflict and heavy emotion!

Janet Benton website

Summary:
The year is 1883. The city is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Lilli de Jong is a 23 year old woman who is unmarried and pregnant. She is a Quaker. Her mother died and life with the new step-mother is unbearable. When the pregnancy is revealed, she begins living in a place that houses unmarried pregnant women. The original plan was to give the baby up for adoption, but she changes her mind. An opportunity of employment brings a direction change, but it comes with a heart-wrenching cost.

My Thoughts:
I know what it is like to be pregnant and unmarried. I eventually did get married, but not until midway through the pregnancy. In the early 1980s, people were more judgmental and critical than now. I was 18 and had graduated from high school, but looked much younger. People judged me for looking younger too. They thought I was 13 or 14 and had a baby. It was incredibly tough. Never mind all the people who were having sex and who did not get pregnant. I did and was judged. This is a first reason why Lilli de Jong provoked strong emotion in me. I can relate to her circumstance and plight.
A second reason this book provoked strong emotion is Lilli has excruciating tough decisions to make. She is singularly alone. This is an era where women were under the control of either a father, husband, or a custodian. Independent women were rare. The decisions and consequences of Lilli’s made my hair stand on end, because I can not imagine enduring what she did.
Lilli de Jong is a story where the first line is a clincher. “Some moments set my heart on fire, and that’s when language seems the smallest.”
The book is written as a journal and the divisions are listed as notebooks.
I enjoyed reading about maternal and infant care. One example is what to do about a breast infection.
I loved the research (author’s notes) on a rarely talked about subject: women and infants in the 19th century. I also loved another storyline: a mother who cannot nurse her baby. I’d thought of this before and wondered what they did? Did they use milk from a cow or goat? A solid choice is to use a wet nurse. The conditions and direction of finding a wet nurse is described in the story, as well as how the mother of the child may have felt.
Adding Quaker as the religion of Lilli’s made the book enticing and different. In books similar to this storyline, most of the young women are Catholic.

Lilli de Jong is a Library Journal Best Historical Fiction 2017.
National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2017