What does it mean to be human in such a world? The disastrous tipping point seems to have been a combination of peak-oil, a subsequent economic spiral downward, a failed series of wars in the Mideast, and, the coup de grace, a terrible act of terrorism in Washington, D. The central character, Jasper, is three years old when America was still functioning for the most part. By the time he reaches age 11, the country has apparently become a failed state. This interval of 8 years indicates a fast crash of our system, probably since everything in our society depends on cheap oil.
Once that stopped flowing, everything else quickly followed. Indeed, these small towns seem much more like medieval villages in which inhabitants rarely stray more than five or ten miles from home, so that the wilderness is again threatening and serves as a barrier. Long distance travel is gone and the rest of America is an unknown. We see the gradual fragmenting of the nation so that the further away you go, the less is known about what is going on.
The Witch of Hebron takes up where World Made by Hand left off, but you can also read this as standalone book, because it recaps the vital points of the first book. Whereas the first novel was more didactic in its setup of a broken America, this second novel has a more mythic feel to it, and the author has settled in more with his characters. We meet again several of the Union Grove characters introduced in World Made by Hand : Robert Earle a former software executive and now town mayor and carpenter and his partner Britney; Loren Holder minister and constable and his wife Jane Ann; and Stephen Bullock and his wife Sophie the richest man in the area—his spread has the only electricity.
The members of the New Faith sect, the fundamentalist church group which has set up shop in the abandoned high school, are back too: Brother Jobe a very religious man with a spooky talent for death , the Precious Mother Mary Beth Ivanhoe an invalid seer known as the Queen Bee , and two legendary veterans of the wars in the Mideast: Brother Seth and Brother Elam. There are other colorful characters too, including Perry Talisker a tormented hermit and frontiersman , Madame Amber and her bawdy house in Glens Falls which definitely has a McMurtry feel to it , and three new pivotal characters: Jasper Copeland, Billy Bones, and Barbara Maglie.
The protagonist is the eleven-year-old Jasper Copeland. Jasper is an unusual boy, going through an informal apprenticeship as a physician by assisting his father, Dr. Jerry Copeland. He has run away from home after committing a heinous act: killing a horse that stomped his dog to death. Everything else beyond that memory was the familiar world of Union Grove and Washington County and the people in it he had known, including the sad and disgusting hermit.
The boys walked silently an eighth of a mile to where the road came to a T at old State Route 29, with its fissures and potholes and stretches where there was no pavement at all anymore. In a little while, they came to the edge of town, marked by the ruins of an old strip mall. All that remained of the Kmart sign were the letters that spelled art. Though his mother and father had explained these things to him, the strange idea persisted in him that this had once been some kind of great bazaar at which objects of art were bought and sold. He knew that in the old times everybody had a lot more money and things.
He knew that there had been many machines besides cars that ran on a liquid called oil that, for various reasons, had become impossible to get in the new times. The sharp break between the old times and the new times was something his parents carried with them constantly like a wound that refused to heal.
The rusty skeleton of an old car squatted deep in the poplar scrub behind the remnants of the Kmart building. The interior had long been burned out. Its steel roof was peeled back like the tongue of an old shoe, saplings had grown through holes in the floor, the hood was a tangle of raspberry canes, and blazing red Virginia creeper struggled up an empty wheel well along the rusty door. Somehow the car had escaped the Great Collecting that had occurred years before when the nation was hard up for steel to prosecute a war in the Holy Land.
Jasper hardly remembered that. The boys sometimes visited the car, regarding it with the same morbid awe as the skeleton of a large mammal that had crawled into the woods to die. I have to rake out their stalls before supper. Ned got a green stick and ran it through the gills and the mouth, twisting the ends like a handle. He was too proud to use an alder branch. Ned took off down the road for his home in town. The high school, which was abandoned after the epidemics that winnowed the town population, had been sold the previous June to a group of seventy-seven wayfaring Christian Evangelicals from Virginia who called themselves the New Faith Brotherhood.
Fleeing the disorders of their home state, they had found peace and tranquillity in Union Grove, decided to settle there, and had worked sedulously to renovate the high school for their own purposes. The old football field had been transformed into a magnificent garden.
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The crop rows were mostly laid up for the winter now except for table greens and winter squashes. They had converted the old school bus garage into a stable. The other grounds and ball fields had been fenced up as pasture. Not many people outside New Faith had been inside the main buildings of the establishment, and their ways remained mysterious, even threatening, to many townspeople of Union Grove.
As Jasper came out of the woods into a stubble field of recently harvested corn, he was struck by the low angle of the sun and the long shadows of everything on the landscape, the brilliant color in the trees behind the school and the perfection of the air temperature as the afternoon merged into evening. A warm nugget of profound contentment at the center of himself welled into a deep gratitude for being.
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He could see the beautiful stallion grazing in its paddock a hundred yards away. As he set out across the stubble field, a brown blur darted from behind a hummock of cornstalks in the direction of the paddock.
Here is a novel that seamlessly weaves hot-button issues like the decline of oil and the perils of climate change into a compelling narrative of violence, religious hysteria, innocence lost, and love found—a cautionary tale with an optimistic heart. Already a renowned social commentator and a best-selling novelist and nonfiction writer, Kunstler has recently attained even greater prominence in the global conversation about energy and the environment. In the last two years he has been the focus of a long profile in the New Yorker , the subject of a full-page essay in the New York Times Book Review , and his wildly popular blog and podcast have made him a sought-after speaker who gives dozens of lectures and scores of media interviews each year.
If you liked the first book in the series, I think you will also enjoy this one. Robert Earle is a minor character, but again, it's the setting and the situation of our possible, energy-depleted near future that takes front stage. The world Kunstler has created is well realized and the actions of the characters when facing such circumstances strike me as very realistic.
A word of caution, though: he doesn't shy away from occasional graphic violence and situations and this book seemed, fitting perhaps considering it takes place around Halloween, darker than the first in the series. There were a few shocking scenes that came to mind, but still, I don't think any of it was gratuitous. Last, the reader does a very good job with the voices, bringing them to life. I could easily picture them all in my head and as the book neared its end, was hoping he will read the rest of the series. Worth your money! This is book two of the World Made by Hand series. I am not yet aware of more in the "series" than these two but I am hoping the author will continue the stories of a small community in NE USA who survive and build a new economy of sorts after the USA has suffered bombing and plague and the government no longer exists.
The characters are great, each portrayed as having unique strengths as well as great flaws. A little hint of the supernatural or is it? The author keeps the reader guessing. The gentle rolling narrative paints a picture which surprises with bold strokes of violence, love making and tension between good and evil.
The first book was pretty entertaining. ALSO- there are numerous instances where it becomes rather explicit sexually. I have to wonder if the author discovered Viagra between the first and second book. This series and particularly this book in it offer less plot, character development or literary beauty than one would hope for. However, I love listening to this well read tale just to enjoy living in this moment of US history, or future rather. If one aspires to the return of simplicity, and of values, creativity at the cost of lost convenience, you may find your self enjoying the read just to be there, in that space for awhile.
I did enjoy this book but it's somewhat disappointing at the same time. It reads like a first draft of a book that could have been very good. The original book did basically nothing to setup a sequel so I feel like this book suffers as a result. After the 1st book i was looking forward to this book but i was very disappointed, spend your credit on something else. While my staggered listening effected the experience, I just found this to be mediocre, interesting enough to continue and finish but nothing extraordinary.
Intriguing subjects all three, but this book is more of a light entertainment than the social criticism of the first book. As for criticism goes, it is over-articulated and somewhat unrefined. In early listening I was turned off by the 'humdrum" narrator's voice, but soon got used to it.
Review: The Witch of Hebron by James Kunstler
I soon discovered that it was an interesting addition to a frightening world in which people found themselves. I have to laugh, cause the big thing I take away from most sessions is hunger. I take away a strange need to learn how to do things like, raise food in a garden, make wine and beer There are so many people who would be helpless in an apocalyptic world. I happily recommend this series! Personally I found the character of the "Mother" at the new church a bit far fetched, but otherwise an enjoyable story.
I really enjoyed this book. The narrator was excellent with his change of tone and voice to suit the characters. The book is set in the not to distant future where oil, gas and electricity are no more.
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It could just have easily been set in the 's. Great story and characters. Flows very well and the climax is excellent!! Highly recommend. Your audiobook is waiting…. By: James Howard Kunstler. Narrated by: Jim Meskimen.
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