Book Review: Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Confession: I’ve never read any Wendell Berry. So when I say I’ve been reading Wendell Berry, it strikes me as a very lofty thing to say.

A dear friend called Jayber Crow the best book she’s ever read. Another dear friend, upon hearing that I had begun, agreed with more enthusiasm than seemed possible. That’s a lot of acclaim.

I finished it this afternoon. I enjoyed it, but much to my discredit, I don’t think I ever would have read it without the adjoining hype. It needed a shining testimonial (or two) to pull me in and keep me there.

Wendell Berry is, as I’ve heard, amazing with language. And now I understand the ruckus. I’ve always known he was a staunch environmentalist, a tree-hugger’s writer, the father of small-scale agri-writings, but I only knew of a fraction of the story. Yes, he speaks the voice of the earth better than any other, for he does the job as a man with his hands in the earth, plugged in and recharging for every ounce of inspiration, but there is more. The fiction is beautiful. The words are impeccable. The imagery, real and figurative, is simply out of this world. And the theology… the theology is warming and bolstering and square, and I am humbled by his ability to fit it all into mere words and give it such a perfect skin.

But most of all, Mr. Berry is nothing if not painfully honest. He leaves Jayber laid bare, open to the elements. He leaves himself laid bare in Jayber’s pages, naked and vulnerable. It is a thing of beauty that I can’t really describe. The dream of every author, to pour that much of themselves into the page. Jayber’s story, Jayber’s song, is a song of true redemption, the kind that can only be found in love; it is intense and unassuming and full, for there really are no other words.

The book is slow. It really goes about nowhere. As does Jayber, and that is the point. It’s nearly monastic. I, indeed, loved it, slowly.

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