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That Distant Land


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Collected stories from three previous works plus four new stories combine in this capstone anthology by Kentucky poet and novelist Berry. Fictional Port William is located in the author's native state, but life there, as revealed in these interconnected tales spanning a century, is as far removed from today's hyperactive, uber-consumerist world as Mars. The fully realized town and its inhabitants-which include former schoolteacher Miss Minnie; her husband, giant farmer Ptolemy "Tol" Proudfoot; decent, thoughtful small-town lawyer Wheeler Catlett; and their friends, family, and neighbors-live in a world of hard work and simple truths. When old Jack Beechum dies in "It Wasn't Me," Wheeler tries hard to honor his final wish that tenant farmers Elton and Mary Penn be allowed to buy the farm they've tended so well. This plan, however, runs against that of Jack's worldly daughter and son-in-law, who are intent on selling the farm to the highest bidder. Berry is an American treasure; this collection belongs in all literary fiction collections.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Berry is an American treasure; this collection belongs in all literary fiction collections."
"Berry is the master of earthy country living seen through the eyes of laconic farmers.... He makes his stories shine with meaning and warmth."

Set in a small Kentucky farming village, this collection of Berry's Port William stories illuminates the evolution of rural American life over the course of the 20th century. In 23 stories, Berry chronicles Port William from the 1880s to the 1980s, evoking the connectedness of the small town's denizens to each other and to the land. In "A Consent," a memorable auction of home-baked cakes launches a romance between farmer Tol Proudfoot and Miss Minnie Quinch, the schoolteacher who becomes his bride. Their courtship, marriage and life together form the backbone of several other stories-in "A Half Pint of Old Darling," set during Prohibition, Miss Minnie goes on a brief but garrulous bender. "Nearly to the Fair" describes how Tol and Miss Minnie "went easy into the modern world" with their first motor car, a Model A coupe in which they're never as comfortable as they are with their horses. The most touching story in the collection is "Fidelity," about a terminally ill 82-year-old farmer whose son kidnaps him from the hospital so he can die on the land he worked and loved. Though many stories move at a glacial pace, Berry's writing is graceful, poignant and compassionate, and his feel for the inner lives of his quirky rural characters makes for many memorable portraits. A valuable work of literature and historical set piece, this collection vividly captures the fabric of a kind of all-American life. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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