Mary Berry Reflects on Wendell Berry's 50 Years at Lanes Landing
Review of Wendell Berry's "Distant Neighbors"

Reflecting on Wendell Berry's "Old Jack"

Berry's work is grounded in a love and appreciation of nature and family farming, so it's no wonder than much of the book is a love letter to the land.  Old Jack spends the bulk of his outdoors, so his memories are filled with images of working the land and observing nature in great detail.

The novel also describes the men who farm alongside Old Jack: mentors who taught him how to work, family members, neighbors and hired hands who work in the fields beside him, and neighbors who work their properties in the same county.   Old Jack also describes the women in the town through their work to care for their homes, gardens, children, and family members, in particular their menfolk. 

Even though Old Jack sees people around him in rich and complex ways, Jack himself emerges as an incredibly complex character.  By the end of the novel, the snap judgement I made about Jack softened so that I felt a mixture of respect and sympathy for him.  Over nearly a century, I watched one man's unbridled youthful zeal transform into specific hopes and dreams for loving one woman and working one piece of land.

Read more of this by Karen D. Austin at The Generation Above Me


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