Hannah Coulter is possibly one of the most boring books I've read in a while, which is unfortunate because it doesn't bode well for the discussion on Facebook for the Deliberate Reader digital book club, which is what I read this for.
The premise is simple. Hannah Coulter is an old woman looking back over her life in Port William, Kentucky, including her time as a girl during the Great Depression and her young womanhood during World War II, as well as her later married life. But here's the thing: Hannah Coulter's life is boring. She farms. She has children. She talks about the characters of these children, and of some of the people connected to her and her family in various ways. But that's pretty much it. There's not a plot, just a lot of "late in life" musing about what being a farmer and a mother has meant to her. But honestly, I didn't feel like there was anything here that I haven't gotten out of countless other books, and those books had more to offer than this one did.
I guess it's well-written enough for literary fiction, but there's nothing intriguing that really kept me wanting to read. I only finished it because it was a book club book and some perverse desire I have to finish every book I start even when I don't really like it. It's just a "meh" book and doesn't drive me to pick up anything else of Berry's...like, ever. There's not a conflict, not even a character-driven one, and while many reviewers seem to be praising how introspective it was, and how it highlights small-town life, but quite frankly I think that idolizing the small-town farming life has just as many dangers in it as idolizing big-city life. I've lived both, and Berry makes small towns seem far more idyllic than it really is, even if he and I grew up in different times. As the "story," such as it is, goes on, Hannah turns her attention more to other people than herself, which eliminates some of the promise the book held early on, when she talked about her own thoughts and her own struggles. Instead, she spends much of the later part of the book just talking about others and what they did and how they did it and so on.
Apparently, this is actually part of a series of interconnected books about this fictitious town and the same people...but I struggle to see how reading them all could have appeal when so much of it seems to have been just laid out here.
Ah, well. At least it was short.
2 stars out of 5.