Thursday, November 3, 2011
Book Review - A World Lost by Wendell Berry
A World Lost is a deceptively short book, only 104 pages. However, it packs a punch far stronger than its small size and gentle, unassuming language would lead one to believe. This story of a 9 year old boy whose life and family are changed forever by one terrible event draws one into an unforgettable world and really makes the reader think.
As the story opens, 9 year old Andy Catlett is spending a carefree summer with his grandparents in rural Kentucky. His world is a peaceful one, and he is secure in the love of his parents and extended family. The wild uncle for whom he was named has gone away to work and in his absence, Andy enjoys a peaceful morning and goes for a swim. His idyllic world is shattered when he learns that his uncle Andrew was murdered in a brawl.
What follows is a bittersweet tale of remembrance. Bitter because we see how deeply the loss of Uncle Andrew grieved Andy's grandparents, father and friends in the town. Bit by bit the story also unwinds to show us the senselessness of what happened. However, there is a sweetness to this book, too. Partly it comes from the beautiful language. One gets the sense that Wendell Berry chooses his every word with great care.
And part of the sweetness comes also from the obvious love that Andy had for his uncle. Though Berry uses genteel language to describe a rather indelicate person, one quickly senses that Uncle Andrew was deeply flawed. And yet he was deeply loved not only by his family but by others in the small town. Though this is not an expressly Christian book, I suspect this running theme of a deeply flawed person being deeply loved even though he did not deserve it will resonate with readers.
If you're looking for good fiction to read, this tale is well worth the time. Stylistically, the writing is beautiful and the author has such insight into human nature as well. I found myself wanting to savor the words as I read them.