As love stories go, Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow is pretty strange. The title character, an introverted, balding bachelor-barber, watches as Mattie Keith Chatham, an attractive neighbor-girl, grows up; marries a local basketball star; bears, rears, and begins burying their children; ages; and dies. One of my more cynical students, disturbed by Jayber’s fascination with someone so much younger than he, described him as a stalker. Used to romances in which the boy gets the girl, or vice versa, this student and some of the others with whom I’ve read Berry’s novel don’t know what to make of it. I have to work hard to convince some of them that Jayber is not a stalker but a suffering saint. In this sense, the novel Jayber Crow is a passion narrative.
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