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“This is a book about Heaven,” says Jayber Crow, “but I must say too that . . . I have wondered sometimes if it would not finally turn out to be a book about Hell.” It is 1932 and he has returned to his native Port William to become the town's barber. Orphaned at age ten, Jayber Crow’s acquaintance with loneliness and want have made him a patient observer of the human animal, in both its goodness and frailty. He began his search as a "pre-ministerial student" at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with "Old Grit," his profound professor of New Testament Greek. "You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out―perhaps a little at a time." "And how long is that going to take?" "I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps." "That could be a long time." "I will tell you a further mystery," he said. "It may take longer." Wendell Berry’s clear-sighted depiction of humanity’s gifts―love and loss, joy and despair―is seen though his intimate knowledge of the Port William Membership.
Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared. “A smart, romping adventure, featuring some of the most memorable and powerful female characters I've seen in print for a long time. I loved every page as I followed the Kopp sisters through a too-good-to-be-true (but mostly true!) tale of violence, courage, stubbornness, and resourcefulness.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
Lakin, West Virginia, 1930—Following a suicide attempt and consigned to a segregated insane asylum, attorney James P.D. Gardner finds himself under the care of Dr. James Boozer. Eager to try the new talking cure for insanity, Boozer encourages his elderly patient to reminisce about his experiences as the first black attorney to practice law in nineteenth-century West Virginia. In his forty-year career, Gardner’s most memorable case was the one in which he helped to defend a white man on trial for the murder of his young bride—a case that the prosecution based on the testimony of a ghost. Greenbrier, West Virginia, 1897—Beautiful, willful Zona Heaster has always lived in the mountains of West Virginia. Despite her mother’s misgivings, Zona marries Erasmus Trout Shue, the handsome blacksmith who has recently come to Greenbrier County. After weeks of silence, riders come to the Heasters’ place to tell them that Zona has died. A month after the funeral, determined to get justice for her daughter, Mary Jane informs the county prosecutor that Zona’s ghost appeared to her, saying that she had been murdered. With its unique blend of masterful research and mesmerizing folklore illuminating the story’s fascinating and complex characters, The Unquiet Grave confirms Sharyn McCrumb’s place among the finest Southern writers at work today.