I always enjoy spending time in Port William, but this time was a bit more tragic. Wendell Berry has a way of taking what appears to be an ordinary, well-lived, life of a man in Kentucky and showing you the hidden tensions and pressures that are at work. Sometimes the seemingly trivial choices we make have profound emotional repercussions, even if no one else will ever see them. To borrow a metaphor from Andrew Peterson, they are like mountains on the ocean floor.
Jack Beechum is nearing the end of his life, and Berry gives us insight into the memories he holds, even while that memory appears to be fading to those around him. As always in Berry’s writings, the expression of Jack’s tragedies and triumphs will be tied to his land in multiple ways. I have read most of the Port Williams series, and Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter still top my list. The first half of this one left me wondering if this would be my least favorite, then it began to come together. This book may now be my third favorite, not because of the enjoyment it gave me, but because of the glimpse it gave me into the emotional complexities of life. It functioned more like a warning shot than a target at which to aim. While at the same time, it did not fail to leave a little hope in its wake.
The Memory of Old Jack – Buy on Amazon