In Fidelity, Berry collects five short stories, with overlapping characters, all set in in his fictional but very real Kentucky home. They may be short stories, but the characters are full-blown and the setting warmly and very realistically described, so much so that in a few short pages I found myself emotionally invested in the story much as one might in a great novel.
In the longest of the stories by far, "Fidelity," Berry is at his best, describing the family and friends of the elderly and dying Burley Coulter and their complicity in wresting him from a hospital where he lay dying poorly, in a strange place, hooked up to machines, so that he could die in peace, in natural surroundings. It's a story about what it means to live and die, and die well.
But my favorite story is a much shorter one, "Making It Home," about the homecoming of Arthur Rowanberry from WWII to his native Kentucky home, remembering all the while, wondering if and how things had changed (and how he himself had changed). It has a wonderful ending which calls to mind our own great Homecoming one day, when Christ welcomes us into His Heaven.
Wendell Berry is a great writer. Why? Because his stories are rich with his love for the land where he lives and for its people. He has lived in the Kentucky River region of Kentucky for 30 years, where he and his family farm 75 acres of land. He knows it. He is rooted in a singular place like not too many Americans are anymore. He's a great reminder to me to love the place where I am, right down to the dirt I stand on.
I'm adding Fidelity to my list of recommended books. It's that good.