© 1988 Wendell Berry
Andy Catlett is a man far from home, wounded in spirit and in body. His right hand was eaten and destroyed by mechanized farm equipment, and in attending an agricultural conference he sees only plans to destroy his and his people’s entire way of life. Sinking steadily into a pit of despair and sorrow, thinking of a dying marriage and a threatened town, he is ultimately restored by a long reflection. The bulk of the novel consists of stories from his family’s history as lived in the town, moving from the Civil War onward. Ultimately the memory of how he and his wife took an abandoned farm, long broken, and restored it to productive health seems to rescue Andy from merely depressing himself with memories of loss. Although this is a short story about healing — healing the land and seeing to the soul as well — there’s also a brief defense of family farm agrarianism against agribusiness when Catlett revisits his time spent as a young journalist preparing an article on scientific farming. It’s a fine story for Berry’s friends, but it’s not consequential enough that I’d reccommend to someone who hasn’t first read a larger story like Jayber Crow or Hannah Coulter and already been wooed to a love of the membership of Port William.