Berry masterfully crafted these stories to be honest about the human condition with its complex mixture of triumph and sorrow. In so doing, he managed to communicate powerful and eternal truths about the importance of community, kinship, and love.
Just look at Uncle Peach and Wheeler Catlett. Uncle Peach is an estranged family member who makes poor life choices. Wheeler chose to push him away for many years. Broken families are no doubt a reality in this sinful world and perhaps among all of us. But Berry, through Wheeler’s mother, shows the importance and responsibility of love for those whom we call family. The human condition is messy and full of failure, but that does not excuse us from entering into the messiness.
A similar lesson is taught through Mat Felner and his mother. Sickness and pain is a reality with which all of humanity is familiar. Mat encountered this frailness first hand with the hurt man that stepped into his door. He was afraid and shocked by this man. We are all discouraged by the challenges of our world, but Mat’s mother was “a woman who did what the world put before her to do.” In another story, Elton Penn and the community showed love to the sick and desperate Mary Penn. Berry recognizes the realities of man’s fears, but encourages us to break free and love the world in small and ordinary ways, especially through our family members and neighbors.
Read the whole piece by Eric Peterman at The Washington Institute.