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Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow - Wendell Berry This review comes in two parts since two parts of me read this book. Part 1: Ostensibly, _Jayber Crow_ meditates on love, faith, and all the big weighty stuff. Beyond that, it's a novel take on presence and absence, maybe even a syncretic take as the Christian influence emits a whiff of Zen. The story is predicated on finding presence in absence. Beyond lucky coincidences that drive the plot, Jayber, an adult orphan, finds himself settling into absences. Much is made of Port William, Kentucky, as a so-called classless community in which a bachelor barber is the gatekeeper to the society of men and yet an outsider in the town as a whole. But for Jayber, that solitary place on the fringes is his place. It's the non-slot that is the open slot. The same is true of his faith: He finds God in empty churches, in silences, and in the undeniably physical (and thus not spiritual) world of the flesh. Part 2: Wendell Berry is God. Yes, it's true. While reading him, moreover, I'm an Old Testament character. (I may even be Jonah, which is fitting since "Jayber" is Jonah Crow's nickname.) I do believe him, but sometimes I'm plagued with doubt. How can he create a beautiful, rich, and poignant world and fill it with such suffering? How can I think he's a being of eternal love and watch him force a character to bear trials he may not be able to bear? How can he fill this place with such wonderful people, some I want in my real life (Did I mention that I fell in love with Jayber even though I know it'd never work out?), and then let loose another bad seed? His bad seeds, by the way, aren't purely corrupt but are merely weaker and more fallible than the rest. Just when I think he's gone too far--the narrator stubbornly refuses to let one character have a flaw or another show a single good quality--Berry reveals himself in quiet, little miracles that strain credulity but redeem my faith in him as a writer. He's an awesome god, and I tremble before him. Like Jayber's woeful prayer, I find myself saying, "Thy will be done." Have mercy.