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THE WITCH OF HEBRON by James Howard Kunstler


From the World Made by Hand series, volume 2

by James Howard Kunstler

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8021-1961-2
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

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.