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Hannah Coulter

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Had a hard time believing this was Christian fiction
Although the writing was very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and plotlines, I was constantly looking for anything Christian in it. Church was not an integral part of the characters lives. Once in a while there was a minor reference to a bible verse. The use of language upon occasion was a red flag for me. I think this was fairly moral and mostly sweet, but I would not consider this Christian fiction, and the fact that I bought it from Christianaudio was a bit off-putting. With that thought in my mind I think I enjoyed it just a little less than I would if it had been labelled "moral fiction".
I have to admit, the narrator (Susan Denaker) was excellent!!
Now I'm listening to Nathan Coulter and the language in that is worse by far. I have a feeling I'm going to be wincing all the way through it.
Sorry Mr. Berry, I felt that none of that language was necessary if you want it to be enjoyed by folks who are trying to escape from the world's values.
Review by / (Posted on 8/16/2014)
Disappointed with language
The story was interesting, with wisdom through the years coming out, but I deleted it because I didn't care for the language that it used....Not something I'd allow in my home as a Christian.
Review by / (Posted on 3/27/2014)
Nearly 5 stars
I would give this five stars except that a few times, Berry goes off on tangents that seem to clearly be him stating his opinions apart from the character. A chapter on the horrors of Okinawa, for instance. But once again, Berry writes an amazing account of one woman's memories of growing up as a "member" of the Port William community. Some of the stories are familiar, if you've read other Berry stories, but this time they're from a woman's point of view. In telling my wife about what I was reading, I would usually refer to what "she" was saying instead of what Berry was writing (regardless of what I wrote above.) Of those stories, I was a bit perplexed by the suicide of one character not being mentioned by Hannah, which we read about in another of Berry's books, even though she was personally close to that character.

Of course, Berry weaves into the story his views on agriculture, community and war and peace. There's even a little sex, from a woman's point of view worked into the narrative.

Bottomline, I can't get enough of Wendell Berry and was disappointed he did not win the Nobel Prize for literature. Hopefully, before he dies.
Review by / (Posted on 10/13/2013)
Progress is not always improvement
How do you discuss a book like this? It is a beautiful story. Berry knows how to draw you into the world of rural 1930-2001 in a way that makes me almost miss not living it. I have not read anything by Wendell Berry before, but he has been recommended to me by many and I will read more.

Hannah Coulter is the narrator of the book. She is telling her life story from her old age and it is remembered clearly. This is a first person narrative and it never breaks from that. It is a perfect book to listen to because the single voice fits perfectly. Susan Denaker does a very good job embodying Hannah.

The story starts with Hannah as a young girl recounting the death of her mother and her early years with her father and step-mother during the depression in rural Kentucky. The story winds through WWII, raising children and living life on a farm in the 50s and 60s. Aging and having your children leave home. Changes in culture and life as the world moves away from its rural roots and the sense of ‘Membership’ in a community fundamentally changes as people lose their roots and children and parents live apart. Hannah Coulter is not a fast novel. It is slow. It takes time to tell a story that runs about 80 years. But it does not drag, it just does not hurry along.

This is what a Christian novel should be like. Berry is a theologian, poet, novelist, farmer. He is not writing Christian novels. He is a novelist that is writing great literature. This is a books about real life. It involves people that do things that people do, they love, fight, have affairs, work hard, etc. I was almost surprises how freely Hannah talks about sex, never vulgar or inappropriate, always with euphemisms. But sex was a part of her life and a part of her marriage and therefore a part of her story. I read too many Christian novels that paint pictures of people that are just not lifelike.

I also read too many Christian novels that preach. Berry never preaches through Hannah, but Hannah does pontificate as older people sometimes do. She shares about economics, thrift, community, war, relationships, environmentalism and much more. It is never preaching. It is always in context and feels like she is simply sharing some wisdom as an aside. Do not let this hold you back from reading, it is not a large part of the book, but I am struck how intellectually challenging a simple book like this can be if you allow it to be more than just the story. (Although reading it for just the story is well worth it.)

I felt like I could be one of Hannah’s grandchildren listening to the story. I have listened to my Grandmother tell stories like this. I have a group of guy friends from college. We get together every year and have talked about the fact that basically all of our parents grew up on farms. With one exception, all of our parents left the farm and and our generation only occasionally visits. We are of an age when most of our grandparents have died and while most of the families still have at least the house and a little bit of the land the connection is slipping.

Wendell Berry writes nostalgically in the best sense of the term. He was himself born in 1934. He remembers the losess that we as a culture have felt as we have lost our connection to the land and the farm. He knows not everything is better on the farm, but he also is well aware that some things are definitely worse.

Originally posted on my blog at
Review by / (Posted on 3/28/2013)
Like Homemade Pie
My wife bakes a marvelous homemade pie that makes store bought pies seem like mud pies. There is substance and depth and richly balanced flavors and textures in my wife's pies.

"Hannah Coulter" is a bit like her pies. Wendell Berry's recipe gives substance and depth with those richly balanced flavors and textures that leave your heart warm, your soul satisfied, and your tastebuds wanting life at its best.
Review by / (Posted on 9/23/2011)
i laughed i cryed i was in wonder i remembered i was emotionally attached to this memoir type story it jump around just enough to make it real just like grandma's storys i was bored only once and that was because i wanted to get to what i was waiting for but just like a good story teller you had to hang on to every word cause you might miss something crutial the ending left me wanting more but realy there couldnt have been more ... just like real life not knowing what comes next ..
Review by / (Posted on 9/12/2011)
Skillfully done but tedious
The reader of this book (Susan Denaker) does a simply amazing job - thoroughly convincing as Hannah - truly bringing her to life. However, I started the book thinking it would be a narrative. I was very disappointed to find that it is not. I do not normaly listen to / read non fiction and I was not familiar with the novel genre as pseudo-autobiography. I decided to give it a listen expecting a story with a distinct Christian message or at least content. In this book, while there is the odd scriptural reference mentioned in passing there is little to give a distinct "Christian" (vs simply good "religious folk") flavor to even the main characters". The only thing that would separate it from a "non-Christian" novel is the lack of bad language and overtly sinful behaviors. While the author does more than a masterful job of bring out the detail in the lives of the characters it often feels like too much detail and sometimes becomes simply tedious and chore to listen to. Nearing the end, I was tempted to not finish it at all. Other than the fact that I had invested so many hours listening already, I may very well have moved on to the next book.
Review by / (Posted on 9/8/2011)
great book!
I thought this book was excellent! I just finished listening this morning and I am sad it has come to an end. The reader did a great job. I loved her voice. It made me feel like Hannah was really talking to me. I highly recommend this audiobook.
Review by / (Posted on 9/3/2011)
The experience evokes a sublime visit to a beloved grandmother figure with memories and wisdom to impart
Susan Denaker brings twice-widowed farm wife Hannah to life with soft-spoken but resolute dignity. As the 20th century closes and a new millennium begins, the elderly—yet fiercely self-sufficient—Hannah reflects on her past, especially the crucial threads of family, community and the soil. Denaker does an especially effective job of portraying the other figures in the “Port William Membership” in a manner that fits the approach of the first-person narrative. She adjusts the octave and tone of the male and female characters of varying ages just enough to set them apart from each another, but listeners can be certain that Hannah maintains full control of her own storytelling. The experience evokes a sublime visit to a beloved grandmother figure with memories and wisdom to impart.
Review by / (Posted on 1/6/2011)
I've enjoyed hundreds of audiobooks in the last five years - mostly the classics. I think ChristianAudio's Hannah Coulter rivals the best the industry has to offer. Narrator Susan Denaker is marvelous. Wendell Berry is an American treasure - revealing deep truths in the tiny details of winsome, ordinary people. A beautiful, very moving book! Thanks, ChristianAudio. Well done!
Review by / (Posted on 10/21/2010)

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