Book Review: Hannah Coulter

Posted by Stacy Ott on May 31, 2024
Book Review: Hannah Coulter
“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’
“I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”

At Faith Bible Church, one of the things that we strive to be intentional about is discipleship. That looks like coffee with a mentor, a phone call to a trusted friend, or engaging with our Growth Groups. I think fictional characters can help teach us, too. One of my mentors from fiction has been Hannah Coulter of Wendell Berry’s novel of the same name.

Born in a hardworking farming family in 1922, Hannah lives with her father, mother, and grandmother until her mother dies unexpectedly from the flu when Hannah is 12. This begins a life full of loss and grief.

Hannah tells her story in first person as an elderly woman looking back over her life. Hannah has been widowed twice, lived through the consequences of World War II, and seen technology change the landscape and values of her home in Port William, Kentucky. Through all the difficult circumstances she continues to live according to her steady values of love and charity.

“The living can’t quit living because the world has turned terrible and the people they love and need are killed. They can’t because they don’t. The light that shines into darkness and never goes out calls them on into life. It calls them back again into the great room. It calls them into their bodies and into the world, into whatever the world will require. It calls them into work and pleasure, goodness and beauty, and the company of other loved ones.”

Wendell Berry’s lyrical writing brings beauty and truth to how we can meet difficult, unexpected circumstances in our own lives. Hannah is an example of walking a faithful life.

Stacy Ott

Stacy is the mother of five and loves teaching, learning and reading great books!

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