I just recently finished reading the book, The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry. I was looking for a thoughtful and heartwarming read and I was not disappointed with this book by Berry. This is the second book in Berry’s fiction series that is based in the imagined farming community of Port William. The first one I read by Berry was the very satisfying book titled, Jayber Crow.
Without spoiling the book, The Memory of Old Jack takes place in a small farming community at the tail end of the 1800s. The story is about the land, farming, hard work, relationships and the unique treasure of people. The story is a collage of memories of an old man and a life well lived. Throughout the book is realized the “beauty” of God’s creation in the form of work, agricultural living, farm animals and relationships. This book is full of practical wisdom that has been lived and learned the hard way.
As one who grew up on a farm and who has always been fascinated by the wisdom of the aged and the artistry of work, I found Berry’s book deeply satisfying. Throughout The Memory of Old Jack I found my memory quickened with recollections that surfaced in the form of reminiscent tears. In the work gnarled hands and the tapping cane of Old Jack I could see my great grandfather and in Old Jack’s encouraging words and commitment to family I could see my grandfather who was not only committed to caring for and looking in on his brothers and sisters but who was also available to love and mentor me, his only grandson.
In Berry’s book is realized the beauty of human life and also the banality of living. Life is not perfect and this reality is evident in Berry’s story line and characters in the novel. For a piece of fiction, this book is a very real depiction of life as some have known it to be. It is the real moments of life, the good and the bad, that make up what are considered life memories. It is these types of memories that are touched upon in Berry’s book, The Memory of Old Jack. It is a novel that I recommend to you as a book of memories from long ago that you will remember.