Finished ‘That Distant Land’


Finished reading this on Tuesday evening of Day 9.  295 pages of 440 read during the challenge.  It was so hard to close the book.  Clunk.  You know how it is when you don’t want to leave the world an author has created.  That was my experience with this one.  I lived there from 1888 to 1986 with decent, caring people.

Berry is an activist, poet, and essayist, and farmer, as well as a writer of fiction.  He lifts me up.  A friend sent me two of his poems when I told her I was reading this book, and I think they will do a better job than I ever could of concisely communicating the feel of the stories in this book.  It is set in the fictional Kentucky farming community of Port William.  Berry helpfully dates each story and provides in the back of the book a map of the area and a page showing family trees for all of the characters in the stories.  The poems:

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,

and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,

and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

© Wendell Berry
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.  
– (c) Wendell Berry


I will give you one example of his gentle treatment of his characters and his readers from the book.  We know that Mat Feltner is very close to death when Mat’s wife gives their grandson a pair of his shoes to wear.  Shoes are not wasted, and Mat will never get out of bed and wear them again.  Do you see all of this as old-fashioned and too sentimental?  I’m truly interested to know.  I may be affected by the length of time I’ve been on this earth!





5 comments on “Finished ‘That Distant Land’”

  1. I really liked Peace of Wild things. As for your question, I’m quite sentimental so I may be biased, you are the only one who can say if it is because of your age.
    It sounds like an emotional read. I have had to move on to more academic and mundane things after my own harrowing week in fiction.


    1. Thanks, Kate, for weighing in. Glad you enjoyed the poem. There’s plenty of humor in ‘That Distant Land,’ too. And I am moving on to the strictly humorous in the form of a Roz Chast book, which is non-fiction, all in cartoon form. The pages turn fast!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and when she is starting to give away her late husband’s clothing, she realizes she couldn’t give away all his shoes– what if he comes back?


    1. I read ‘The Year of Magical Thinking,’ too. Thank you for reminding me about it. She pulls you into her experience. Maybe this was the start of my trying to clear out some of my own stuff & keep it relatively cleaned out. As many books as possible come from the library. If I buy books, most of them are donated to the library after I’ve read them. (But I think the one Daniela sent me in the book swap should go back to her to build up the series she is accumulating!)

      Thanks for your feedback on “the shoes.”

      Liked by 1 person

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