Hearing about this follow-up to Kunstler's 2008 World Made by Hand might make one somewhat apprehensive. Would the author be able to maintain the charm and impact of his first, postapocalyptic novel? Would he be able to keep us interested in his "world made by hand"? Set in the same small town of Union Grove, NY, this sequel wins on all counts. Kunstler skillfully extends the arc of the previous novel. In addition, he incorporates an effective coming-of-age story. Young Jasper Copeland, age 11, runs away from home and falls in with some bad company. As the story is resolved and the titular witch makes her appearance, the disparate parts of the narrative fall together with a spooky yet audible click. Kunstler's future is both reassuring and utterly terrifying at the same time. Verdict Just in time for Halloween, this paean to America's past and future rings trueCormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses meets Stephen King's The Stand. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections.Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA
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Doomsday survivors in upstate New York cope with a collapsed civilization in Kunstler's sequel to A World Made By Hand (2008).
The denizens of Union Grove have survived terrorist bombs, flu epidemics, race wars, freakish out-of-season hurricanes and an industrial meltdown that has spelled an end to electricity, cars, trains and cities. In the novel, a kind of post-post-apocalyptic tale, returning characters cope with more mundane threats: violent crime, crop disease, erectile dysfunction. Brother Jobe, dark-powered leader of the New Faith religious sect, is out to avenge the fatal drugging of his horse. The Rev. Loren Holder, whose impotence had him lending his wife to his best friend, Mayor Robert Earle, a software executive in "the old times," is drawn to Barbara Maglie, a madame with witchly powers of arousal. Then there are magistrate Stephen Bullock, who beheads three home intruders with a samurai sword and hangs ten other members of their gang; Billy Bones, a young "bandit" who goes on a raping and killing spree with troubled doctor's son Jasper Copeland in tow, and Perry Talisker, a hermit with Unabomber potential who, like most of the male characters, is prone to weeping. Kunstler, a high-profile blogger/social critic who sees sure disaster in U.S. oil policies, keeps his agenda under wraps. The novel is primarily an entertainment that keeps its pages turning with short chapters, snappy dialogue, sex scenes and pop-cultural references (Bob Dylan, Joyce Carol Oates, NASCAR). But following the end-of-life-as-we-know-it drama of the first book, much of what happens here feels anticlimactic, particularly since its retro-futurists think and act a lot more like stock characters from old TV Westerns than anything out of Cormac McCarthy.
A novel whose premise and stodgy storytelling may appeal more to young readers than adults.
From the Publisher
“Richly imagined . . . [The Witch of Hebron] reminded me of Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove, set in the dystopian world of The Road.”New York Journal of Books
"[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)