- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (November 13, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374531986
- ISBN-13: 978-0374531980
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,852,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hunters and Gatherers Paperback – November 13, 2008
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The Amazon Book Review
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In Hunters and Gatherers, author Francine Prose takes a hard, satiric look at the New Age movement and finds it wanting. This is the story of Martha, a fashion magazine fact checker who accidentally wanders into a gathering of goddess worshippers on a beach at Fire Island. When Martha saves the group's accident-prone leader from drowning, she is invited to join. Hoping for distraction from her recently broken heart, she accepts the invitation. Whatever doubts Martha might have about the group's rituals and beliefs she suppresses in favor of "confidence and calm, to become like the Goddess women and float on a cloud of faith that a broken answering machine was a message from your guardian angel ... " Eventually, however, the façade of a matriarchy " when everyone worshipped Her and lived in ease and gentleness toward one another and the Earth" cracks, and Martha discovers that goddess worshippers can be just as competitive, jealous, and petty as everyone else.
Talking sticks, sweat lodge rituals, Witches' Sabbaths, and vision quests--Prose has thrown everything including the proverbial New Age sink into Hunters and Gatherers. In Martha, the author has created a modern-day Candide. As her protagonist navigates through a hodgepodge of political ideologies and spiritual practices, Prose gleefully skewers a fad that borrows indiscriminately from other cultures and belief systems.
From Publishers Weekly
Prose (Bigfoot Dreams; Primitive People) has been steadily simplifying her work since the rather complex constructions of her earlier books, and her latest novel shows a striking advance in both economy and focus. Her protagonist, Martha, is a relentlessly literal-minded person (she's a fact checker at a chic women's magazine) whose emotional life is a mess, and who takes up, in the wake of a failed romance, with a group of zany women who have allied themselves with a contemporary Goddess cult. Their leader, Isis Moonwagon, is a sweepingly compassionate but accident-prone former academic who sees visions but has to fight hard to keep her often brutally cynical troops in line (about the only thing they have in common is a profound loathing for men). Martha, a perpetual outsider, wins their trust by saving Isis from drowning during a bungled ocean ceremony at a Fire Island beach; she then stays with them on a manic expedition to visit a noted Native American healer/priestess deep in the Arizona desert. Prose has some expected fun at the expense of these well-fixed Manhattan women and their sometimes inconvenient passion for primitivism, but so acute is her ear, so exact her sense of character, that the book is wonderfully comic, with a sharp undertone of rue. These elements combine magically in the Arizona scenes, focussing on dancing and drumming ceremonies and a sweat lodge experience, seen always through poor Martha's skeptical eyes (she fakes her period to avoid the sweat lodge). The conclusion?involving a hunt for the missing teenage daughter of one of the women, and an encounter with a man who stands all the women's bitter theories on their heads?is beautifully realized, with a breathtaking and utterly unexpected flash-forward for Martha. This is civilized, witty and thoughtful entertainment, brilliantly satiric but basically sweet-natured and true. (Aug.).
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
however, the story feels dated and seems to end very quickly after a very, very slow buildup.
The satire is imaginative ... and very lively...the characters, although a bit parodic, are fully fleshed out beyond their silly name choices such as Isis Moonwagon...
The main character's strong sense of realism and practicality is a nice foil to the over the top wiccan fare...thankfully she serves as an anchor --- which is not to say the wiccan aspects aren't delightful ... they are. And, they are very funny. The scenes with the Native American healers out in the desert are high comedy ...
But, this is not going to be universally liked. It could annoy those a bit impatient with new-age fiction, and those who have lost interest in quasi spirituality -- but for those who are open to a good spoof, read on!!
What I liked so much about "Hunters and Gatherers," is how much fun it is to watch these women interact with each other and outsiders. Francine Prose surprises us at times, especially towards the end when a future character briefly looks back at these events. The ending, in my view, came too suddenly, and I wished the author had let us spend some more time with these characters. In fact, I would love to read a sequel. Just like one of the reviews of the book said, Prose pokes fun at her characters without skewering them. What an entertaining little book!
Francine Prose's "Hunters and Gatherers" is a honey for the caveman's heart. New Age and feminism take a severe beating in the novel. However, I looked around to spy a little on what else Francine Prose has written, and I was glad to see that in a way she specializes in humorous critiques of the modern-day absurdities of all types. Indeed, Prose has no mercy and ridicules the close-mindedness of the true believers of The Goddess, very adequately portraying the cosmic absurd of the malevore ways in general.
What's more, it is also an insight into the sects, much like John Updike's "In the Beauty of the Lilies". I was bored to tears with that last one, although I have to give Updike that he portrayed the sects and mentality of the victims quite well. "Hunters and Gatherers" sometimes raises the hair on our neck. Is it really that easy to fall prey to the New Age sect? What kind of character must one have to become a victim? If the special circumstances arise, all it takes to lose a child is a coincidence, or a minor incident, and bang, we may never see our daughter again. As comic as this book is, it is also dead serious in the background. There is no shortage of charlatans out there, and equally enough, there is no shortage of emotionally unstable people, let alone teenagers. If you have problems with your child, perhaps this book will wake you up, and throw the scales off your eyes. If you do that in time...
Prose is very witty and observant, and I enjoyed the book throughout, but her writing lacks that universal touch a bit, which really disappointed me. Does it sound contradictory? It really isn't. "Hunters and Gatherers" is a thoroughly enjoyable book, in harmony with my own outlook on the malevore trends, but still, I doubt I will ever come back to this book. Why? I know the story, I had my laugh or two, but there isn't much more to this novel. Perhaps because I knew all this already... Nevertheless, this should not discourage you from reading the novel. If you haven't read any book of this type, you'll love this.
Most recent customer reviews
This book shows what I dislike about feminism and Goddess religions.Read more