by Wendell Berry
This is a thoughtful book, and slow. It is the story of a small town, told through the eyes of a man who lives above the barbershop, makes his modest living giving haircuts, and listens to all the talk of the town. It has many threads- some of this man\’s life- his childhood on an aunt\’s farm, his religious education, the moment he realized he didn\’t want to be a priest and wandered back home where he settled down as the town barber. Then it is a very long and slow story of the small-town life, the people he observed, the folk he liked or disliked. I admit I liked the beginning and end of the novel better, the middle part at times felt very dull and hard to stick with. The latter end, where Jayber falls in love with another man\’s wife and admires her from afar for years, while internally criticizing how that man uses and abuses the land, was far more interesting to me. It is one big long soliloquy on the dismay of small farms folding under pressure and how big agriculture ruins the land. With bits of storylines of the townsfolk holding on or moving out, woven around to make a whole. As the small town quietly crumbles under pressure of change, Jayber himself moves to live in a small cabin on the riverbank. Lots of writing describing nature then, it makes you think of Walden, and then the ending is very sad.
I am curious to read another one of his novels, as I\’ve heard they each tell the story of this town through the eyes of a different inhabitant. Also intend to read some of his nonfiction and essays. But I don\’t know if he\’ll ever be a favorite of mine. Just a bit too- deliberate and meandering sometimes for my taste. However it\’s entirely possible I just need to approach it again at a different time of my own life, with a different mindset to appreciate it properly.
Rating: 3/5 363, 2000