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The Witch of Hebron: A World Made by Hand Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 7, 2010
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The post-oil America Kunstler envisioned in A World Made by Hand (2008) proved intriguing enough to inspire a sequel, which, in turn, portends a longer series. Having established the parameters of a society bereft of government services, automobiles, public utilities, consumer goods, and computers, Kunstler writes with more finesse in this portrayal of a community of survivors in Upstate New York, an old-fashioned yarn of character-building confrontations between humans and the wild, outlaws and decent folks. Kunstler decries our refusal to face facts about our oil habit, dramatizes how quickly “the great thrumming engine of modernity” can be halted, and celebrates the benefits of living intimately with nature. But his social concerns never overburden the suspenseful, darkly amusing story, with its touches of the fantastic in the mode of Washington Irving, or undermine his seductive characters: plucky young Jasper, the doctor’s son; ludicrous bandit and psychopath Billy Bones; a sexy and accomplished witch; and the gruff leader of the bizarre and prosperous New Faith commune who possesses his own supernatural powers. Future installments will be eagerly anticipated. --Donna Seaman
"[A] suspenseful, darkly amusing story with touches of the fantastic in the mode of Washington Irving."--Booklist
"Kunstler's post-apocalyptic world is neither a merciless nightmare nor a starry-eyed return to some pastoral faux utopia; it's a hard existence dotted with adventure, revenge, mysticism, and those same human emotions that existed before the power went out."--Publishers Weekly
Vividly drawn . . . [The Witch of Hebron] plays to Kunstler’s strength, which is his understanding of municipal infrastructure, so he can analyze the importance of what has been taken from people, how they cope, and just what is necessary for them to survive.”Steve Goddard’s History Wire (online)
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Top Customer Reviews
My own disappointment here was that I'd hoped to learn more about how the various societies and cultures were evolving in the absence of high-tech. That's what I found most fascinating about "World Made by Hand", and there was little more understanding offered here. It does seem to be clear that there are "mystical" elements that no one really is taking much into account... but that's almost an afterthought. (Please understand that i come from a SF/F reading background, so a well-conceived world is an excellent reason to read a novel.)
The plot was well-thought-out and well-woven.
The characters- they seemed more openings for our interpretation than dynamic, especially the POV characters. This is more a literary novel tradition than a genre approach, so I understand why he took it here. Nonetheless, it made the novel less compelling that it could have been if the POV characters had more individual life to them.
I guess my disappointment was because the author did not focus on the aspects of the world that i found intriguing. How is society working? IS there actually a resurgence of mystical powers? To me, those are compelling questions... and they're only slightly and obliquely addressed here.
I will note that there is a lot of violence, and sexual violence in particular. It is not explicit, but it's not avoidable. I will give great credit that none of it is played for titillation.
I'd read the next book in the series, if there is one. I would hope, though, that there was less focus on an intricate plot, and more that helped us explore the fascinating world.
Kunstler also provides some backstory to how the modern world ended and gives depth and complexity to the "new comers" of the New Faith organization. Kunstler's world isn't quite Coramc McCarthy's The Road, but it is a complex and potentially lethal place as well. What I enjoyed - and what keeps me coming back to his storytelling - is the minutae and detail he provides: the way in which life has slowed down with the absence of modern distractions, his eye for ecological detail as nature in all its forms reasserts itself and they generational differences between those who knew the way the world was before things changed so dramatically and those (like young Jasper) who have never known anything different.
The epynonomous Witch of Hebron, like the New Fiath sect, also lend an air of the mystical and magical that had been forgotten (or was squeezed to the margins) in the modern age, but like the wild things of the forest and streams is returning as technology has recessed. Young Jasper's journey widens the universe of the first book, but the role of the "Witch" - who she was, who she is and what she does resonated with me as much as Kunstler's vision of the slower and more deliberate way of life that is central to his storytelling. While the conclusion of Japser's story was satisfying, I couldn't help but also see echoes of Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in the way the story of the Witch of Hebron was concluded.
I tremendously enjoyed the book, which is perfect fall reading as the days grow short and the weather turns cooler. A recommended read.
The setting remains the same, Hudson Valley country in New York. Brother Jobe and the New Faithers still live in the old high school in Union Grove, Dr. Copeland still cares for the sick, and Dr. Copeland's son comes of age in a world of sometimes shocking and random violence. A new character emerges, the Witch of Hebron, a seeming throwback to the 1960s, who, like Brother Jobe, seems attuned to a world out of sight, but real. It is this supernatural turn that left me cold. I felt as though it was a warm up to Neil Gaimon's American Gods.
Kunstler has done a wonderful job imagining a post-Apocalyptic world. He never really focuses on the things that undid the world as we know it. His task is to tell the tales of the ordinary people who survived. One reads this with a sense that a new dark age has descended; yet his characters shed a light all their own, a light of decency and warmth.
I'll be starting the third book in the trilogy tonight sometime. Kunstler is a keeper.