"The chance you had is the life you've got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people's lives...but you mustn't wish for another life. You mustn't want to be somebody else.”
Let me begin by saying Hannah Coulter is, in my view, a philosophical work of fiction, and let me also say that Hannah Coulter is perhaps the most accessible work of philosophy that I have ever read. It is by far the most relatable, as it is about life as it is – labor and repose, highs and lows, love and loss, and how the individual can simply live and find beauty in the seemingly mundane and ordinary.
Hannah Coulter was published in 2004 and is one in a series of books penned by famed Kentuckian Wendell Berry, which are all set in and around the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky during the twentieth century. This particular installment in the Port William series focuses on the life of Hannah Coulter, who narrates and provides the reader with the details of her life and thoughts, and it is through this narration that one is given a sense of what it is like to live in a community where “membership” draws people close together and creates a sense of belonging that can be difficult to find in the world today.
For the reader who is currently seeking a book with a fast-paced plot, I would not recommend Hannah Coulter, and even though there is not constant action, the story is engaging in a different way. The rhythm of life in Port William captivates with the interwoven lives of those who tend to its land and quietly face the challenges of life with strength, endurance, and dignity. In modern life filled with glitzy advertising and reality television, expectations of what life should be can be quite different from what life actually is, and Hannah Coulter can serve as a powerful reminder that the most amazing aspects of life are found in everyday living.
"Living without expectations is hard but, when you can do it, good. Living without hope is harder, and that is bad. You have got to have hope, and you mustn't shirk it. Love, after all, 'hopeth all things.' But maybe you must learn, and it is hard learning, not to hope out loud, especially for other people. You must not let your hope turn into expectation."
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