Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Monday, March 2, 2009

In Conclusion

Obviously, it has not be easy for us to bring the Hannah Coulter book club to an end.

I will start us off, if that is okay.

In Susan Wise Bauer's book The Well-Educated Mind, Susan says that "almost every novel is structured around these basic questions";

What does the central character want?
What is standing in his/her way?
And what strategy does he/she pursue in order to overcome this block?

Is this true of Hannah Coulter? What does Hannah want?


I would also be curious to know what you thought of the last chapter of the book.

Is it a dream, a memory, or is Hannah meeting her beloved in heaven?

Personally, I think Hannah is just drifting off, remembering. Almost a dream before sleep.

What do you think?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is the Room of Love?

Part Two, Chapter 14

The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day's end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes away, and there you are where giving and taking are the same, and you live a little while entirely in a gift. The words have all been said, all permissions given, and you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room?

Is this an old woman trying to put words to marital intimacy? Is she talking about sex here or her marriage as a whole?

I think we need to figure it out because she goes on and ends the chapter with

If you want to know why even in telling of trouble and sorrow I am giving thanks, this is why.

Hannah and Nathan and their room of love: what is it? Does Hannah's description of it (whatever "it" is) ring true for you? The chapter is full of realistic descriptions of marriage which I so appreciate and can relate to--especially the arguments and how they begin and end. But this description at the end of the chapter feels so abstract to me, I'm wondering if it's just me. I'm not necessarily being critical, I'm just being honest.

I'm curious what you think. I'm looking for some answers.

Pondering...what is the room of love?

:) Lynn

Monday, February 9, 2009


Part Two, Chapter 13.

I don't want you to think, Andy Catlett, that I dwelt on the subject of Ivy. I didn't. I had a plenty else to think about. I was a grown woman...I had a good life, and I knew it. But I was not forgetting Ivy, either. From time to time, too often maybe, I thought of her, and when I thought of her I thought of the broach and earrings that she did not deserve and was unworthy to wear. That thought, when I had it on my mind, was like a grain of corn in my shoe.

Isn't that a wonderful word-picture of bitterness? a grain of corn in my shoe.

That little grain of corn is only bothering Hannah, only serving to remind her how much she resents Ivy. Every step she takes with that little grain of corn in her shoe is a recitation of Ivy's guilt. And while it's painful for Hannah, she's become used to it, it's a familiar feeling. It's the only feeling she knows toward this woman who dealt her so many injustices.

And then one afternoon, when the thought of Ivy was miles away, I met her.
She was wearing a head scarf and a dress that hung on her as it would have hung on a chair. She was shrunken and twisted by arthritis and was leaning on two canes. Her hands were so knotted as hardly to look like hands. She was smiling at me. She said, "You don't know me, do you?"

This is brilliant, isn't it? Up until this point Hannah has not known Ivy. She has only known the effects of Ivy. She has only known the pain and injustice dealt by Ivy. Ivy in her selfish prime, as Hannah had experienced her, masked a person, like herself, in need of grace.

I knew her then, and almost instantly there were tears on my face...All kinds of knowledge came to me, all in a sort of flare in my mind. I knew for one thing that she was more simpleminded than I had ever thought. She had perfectly forgot, or had never known, how much and how justly I had resented her. But I knew at the same instant that my resentment was gone, just gone. And the fear of her that was once so big in me, where was it? And who was this poor sufferer who stood there with me?

"Yes, Ivy, I know you," I said, and I sounded kind.

Excuse me while I wipe my eyes and blow my nose.

Hannah ends the chapter realizing that she has forgiven Ivy.

I didn't understand exactly what had happened until the thought of her woke me up in the middle of that night, and I was saying to myself, "You have forgiven her."

I had. My old hatred and contempt and fear, that I had kept so carefully so long, were gone, and I was free.

In this very short chapter we are served the most delicious and satisfying of meals: a complete picture of forgiveness. With eyes to see Ivy, finally, as a fellow sufferer, Hannah takes the piece of corn out of her shoe. She acknowledges her role of carefully tending her hatred of Ivy all these years. She realizes forgiveness does not have to wait for an apology.


Did you notice Hannah is telling this particular memory to Andy Catlett?

Did you find this, as I did, a compelling picture of forgiveness? Did it hit the mark or miss for you?

I'm wondering if there's more to know about Ivy. Port William experts: does she make an appearance in the other novels?

See you in the comments.
:) Lynn

Friday, February 6, 2009

In Which a Link is Provided and Insight is Given

Sandy is smart.

And she's read a lot more Wendell Berry than I have. She's written a few posts about Hannah at her blog site Maple Grove. I find her perspective very helpful as I try to orient myself with Wendell and his ideas and I didn't want any of you to miss her insight.

Maple Grove.


I have a question for you. (Maybe two.) These are general questions that I've been pondering.

Do you think Hannah, as she was written, is an effective narrator?

Does she convince you that she knows the things she's writing/telling?

Do you feel like you know HER by the end of the book? Could you write a summary of the things that she cares about? Could you predict her attitude or disposition in any given circumstance?


Have you weighed in on the casting call options for Burley? Brad (A River Runs Through It) Pitt and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have been mentioned along with a scruffy George Clooney.

I wonder who should play Hannah.

:) Lynn

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Burley, you rascal.

Perhaps I am a prude.

Perhaps I grew up with a bunch of Puritanical folk.
(I did live in Wheaton, Illinois: All American City, home of Wheaton College)

But living with a woman and having a child out of wedlock was, um, frowned upon and quite unusual in my younger days.

Dan Quale publically frowned upon it in the 80's.

I am not trying to judge.

I just want to know why the folks in Hannah's world did not find it scandalous.

Did this aspect of Burley's life suprise you? shock you? puzzle you? bore you?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Where's the Joy, Hannah?

I'm sensing everyone is bursting to talk about the book now that they have finished or are nearly finished.

I know for certain that Tammy NEEDS to talk about it before she forgets her brilliant observations (many of which will make their appearance here over the next couple of days).

The particular conversation that I'd like to have today has already been started by Donna over at Quiet Life and by a number of you in the comment section of Moving at the Speed of Wendell (the post before the party.)

The observation many of you have pointed out is that Hannah seems to be lacking joy when she speaks of her grown children. I noticed this, too and I have a theory that I'd like to throw out for the purpose of discussion. I wondered if it was too early to talk in such broad terms about this book but I think we can handle it, don't you?

I'll just come out with it. (You have to be brave sometimes.)

I think Hannah's attitude toward the choices her grown children make is Wendell being critical of those choices. It's difficult for me to read it any other way. In Part One, Hannah is a real person to me that I can relate to, but by the end of Part Two she has become a mouthpiece, full of opinions and not afraid to spout them.

What do you think?

Part of the problem with Part Two for me is that she seems cold toward and critical of the paths her children have chosen. I have difficulty imagining myself reacting that way seeing my children carve a way for themselves in the world and being content. I think Margaret is a separate story but certainly her boys chose things they loved and they succeeded at them. It's as if Wendell is saying that the Branches made a better choice by choosing to stay, continuing to farm and carrying on the old ways.

It's as if the relationship she has with her children is dependent on their proximity to Port William, not on their blood line. I can understand the loss of their leaving but I can't understand the loss of relationship once they are gone. It would seem to me a better argument for a Port William way of life if the author portrayed its residents as capable of producing relationships that transcend a place.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and I invite you to agree or disagree at will. There are no right answers here, right? Just good discussion.

I also think Hannah would root for the Cardinals today.

And that's the last opinion in this post.


Thank you all for your wonderful birthday wishes!

I am blessed beyond measure,