That Distant Land: The Collected Stories

By Wendell Berry

1,129 ratings - 4.54* vote

That Distant Land includes twenty-three stories from Wendell Berry's Port William membership. Arranged in their fictional chronology, the book shines forth as a single sustained work, not simply an anthology. It reveals Wendell Berry as a literary master capable of managing an imaginative integrity over decades of writing with a multitude of characters followed over severa That Distant Land includes twenty-three stories from Wendell Berry's Port William membership. Arranged in their

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Book details

Paperback, 448 pages
February 24th 2005 by Counterpoint

(first published August 1st 2002)

Original Title
That Distant Land: The Collected Stories
159376054X (ISBN13: 9781593760540)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


That Distant Land ... Port William is eternal, like the sky ✨This collection of short stories, revisited the membership of Port William. It brought me back to times,places and personalities, I love so much!!~ “that ol’ mule can kick the lard out of a biscuit”. ? Classic ~ Wendell Berry


I would give it more stars if allowed. Wisdom, humor, laughter, tears, longing, sorrow, gratitude, pride. A collection of short stories covering a period from the 1890's to 1975 set in an imaginary county in Kentucky about farming, neighbors and a distant time with now distant values. Beautiful descriptions of the land, the air, the smells. I laughed so hard during one story that I couldn't breath for a bit. There is a deep underlying goodness in these people that I hope, hope, hope we are not losing.


As my husband, children and I drove through Kentucky last month, I got in the habit of looking up in the AAA tour book the little towns we went through. One such town was called Carrollton and actually had attractions. It also stated that the town was founded in 1793 as Port William, the name changing in the mid-19th century. I had just started reading this wonderful book at that time or I would have made my husband stop so I could look around. I suspect if I were there now, the feeling I'd have about the town would be akin to what I might feel if and when I ever get to visit Green Gables. Port William is real (or was); it is certainly real in my imagination.

This book is a collection of stories about the town and people of Port William. I, of course, now understand that this book signals the beginning of what I hope will be years of reading of Wendell Berry's books. The stories of these people are the stories of us all, especially of rural America, of the loss of this America but of the strength and constancy of this America. Every story was one that caused that sweet ache of beauty and love around my heart. Every story was of an overwhelming feeling of family and community and belonging, of history and quiet legend. Every story was of turning over what is important to the generations to come while honoring and remembering the generations before. The stories proved especially important to me, living in the small town where at least 6 generations of my family have resided and having recently lost my own parents.

I believe Wendell Berry is one of the unappreciated great American writers. I only wish that someday my writing could be as sweet and simple and true as his. As it is, I'm having trouble getting across in the review how much I loved this book, how much I wish everyone would read it...


This book covers about a century of time in the community of Port William, an imaginary town on the Kentucky River, where it joins the Ohio River on Kentucky's northern border. There are stories starting from the 1860s and carrying up to the 1960s, about the families who lived in the area. There is a great map in the back of the book that shows where these families lived, and a geneology of several families and how they related to one another.
It's poignant and funny, and a view of a land of farms and the people who made a living farming and working in town, through wars, weather, and the changes that technology brought. Through the stories, and by checking the map and geneology, you can piece together how these people helped each other through hard times, and depended on one another as times changed.
Berry has a great respect for the land, and the world of nature. Today we don't get out in the natural world enough. But these people fought with and loved the forces of nature that ruled their lives. I wish we could get back to those ways.


Reading Wendell Berry is like floating down a peaceful river. These beautiful short stories of farm life in KY kept me the best of company while I sat with my mom during the last week of her life. Berry writes of a rural culture that embraces the presence and wisdom of those members no longer with us - such good timing for reading this.


Twenty-three wonderful Port William stories. I've read these one at a time, slowly, savoring each. The first is from 1891 and the last 1986. Some are from his books and others from earlier collections. I could read them over and over and never tire of Berry's genius. It's hard to pick a favorite, but Fidelity is up there at the top of the heap.


Read this. If you are a part of the Port William membership, read this. Every story added to the world of Port William and shared so much history and backstory of the people we met in Hannah Coulter, Jayber Crow, The Memory of Old Jack, Nathan Coulter, A World Lost and more.

The story Fidelity is possibly my favorite thing I've yet read by Wendell Berry, but I think especially based on where it falls in this collection and having already loved the characters in the story from some of Berry's novels.

Kelley Kimble

My favorite book in a long time. A collection of short stories set in the 1800's following several families in rural Kentucky to present times. I listened to this book while driving across a very rural part of Texas to visit my son. It was the perfect setting for the book. And growing up in small towns helped me recognize characteristics of someone I know in each of the characters. I laughed and I cried. It was a beautiful picture of love, families and the cycle of life.

Caleb Zahnd

The short story "Fidelity" may be one of the finest pieces of modern fiction literature ever penned.

Aaron Van Fleet

Best book I have ever read. Nothing is even close to it. Read it.