Nathan Coulter, is the first of the Port Williams books written by Wendell Berry. Mr. Berry, farmer, poet, professor, novelist, philosopher, created the world of Port Williams, Kentucky, and populated it with wonderful characters and a vivid sense of place and history.
I’ve read a few of the Port Williams books already (click here to read my post about his book, Remembering), but decided that I’d like to read them all, and in order. This book is a beautifully written beginning to the series.
Mr. Berry speaks to me in his books, reawakens memories from my own life and brings back memories and stories that were shared with me by my father and by my grandparents. That memory view extends back a number of generations. His characters are like people I have known. The passage of time and the comings and goings in life fill his stories — they are funny and sad and full of the real everyday details of life. Familiar.
We follow Nathan Coulter as he grows from a boy to a man, through his changing relationship with his brother, through the death of his mother and having then to live with his grandparents because his father couldn’t take care of the two boys, through his growing ability to work on his father’s farm, through his expanding awareness of the community in which he lived. The people around him are kindhearted and connected. He is raised as much by his village as by his parents and then by his beloved grandparents, and his life is tied to nature and the growing seasons. I cried twice in this book, with the poignancy of the story and the beauty of the writing. Mr. Berry is a poet whose words are eloquent. His stories are reminders to cherish what is most important in life.
What We Need Is Here
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes.
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.