Short and Sweet: Watch With Me and six other stories

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Wendell Berry’s collection of thematic short stories, Watch With Me DB 41335 follows the delightful life of one family in the early 1900’s in Port William, Kentucky: the gregarious farmer ‘Tol Proudfood and his wife, the no-nonsense schoolteacher Miss Minnie. Their quirks and peculiarities endear you to their characters, and the stories in the collection span over 30 years of their lives together.

The joy of Berry’s fiction is similar to the value of his non-fiction: his prose has an unwavering grasp on the complexities and curiosities of humanity and society. They differ, though, in that his non-fiction is somber and speaks of hard-to-swallow-truths, while this collection of fiction is decidedly light and playful. On many occasions in my reading of Watch With Me I found myself giggling aloud at the silly scenarios that develop between the neighbors in the small farming community. Berry leads you to feel as if you’re one of the neighbors in Port William, Kentucky, learning the yarns and lore of the Proudfoot family as a companion rather than a reader.

One consistent theme that adds another layer of satisfaction to the stories themselves is the caring, giving nature of the family and their community. Berry is known in his non-fiction for proclaiming the value of close-knit farming communities in the USA that are dramatically shrinking in the 21st century, a shrinking which he attributes to the shrinking culture of neighborly generosity and general societal quality. Through reading these sweet tales of community lunch halls, harvest festivals and trips to the State Fair, you’ll feel a twang for the delights of a bygone era.