For decades Jonah Crow (aka J Crow, aka J Bird, aka Jayber) was the barber in the small town of Port William, Kentucky. As he himself says, a barber is a magnet for stories, especially in the kind of small town where his shop serves as one of the few social spaces. In addition, Jayber served for years as the church custodian and gravedigger, giving him even more opportunities to know the people of the town, and to share in their living and dying. He is, however, also something of an outsider, being both an orphan, raised and educated elsewhere, and a lifelong bachelor. The novel is the story of how he comes to understand his own living and dying through the trials and travails, virtues and vices of those around him.
Jayber Crow, the novel, is as charming and unpretentious as its protagonist, likewise it is just as patient and unexpectedly deep - unexpected, at least, for those unfamiliar with Berry's other work. For those who do know Berry, his usual themes are masterfully elaborated here - love of neighbor and care for the earth, the importance of community and sense of place, the reality of a cosmic order and the sacredness of work.
Berry is a Kentucky farmer, a cultural critic, and a prolific writer whose “Port William” fiction has been compared to Faulkner’s Mississippi. In this quietly touching novel, a man looks back on his difficult but full life and the transitions of the 20th century as felt in his small Kentucky town. A classic.
This novel is a beautiful reflection on life, mortality, and nature from a master of prose, poetry, and fiction.
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