I won a copy of The Witch of Hebron: A World Made by Hand Novel by James Howard Kunstler in a giveaway and am delighted to pass it along to one lucky reader. Although this is Book #2 in the World Made by Hand series, I have not read the first book and found Book #2 worked very well as a stand-alone novel. With everything going on in the world these days, I would think a novel about coming of age in a post-oil society would appeal to just about everyone! What happens when society devolves? Caution: There is some barbaric violence and there are a few sexual scenes, for those who don’t want to read about those. In both cases, however, they are not out of context and are appropriate for the storyline.
Welcome to post-industrial America. This is not the America you know but one with probably no centralized state or federal government (no one knows), no running cars, no mass transportation, paper money = $0, no electricity, no Internet, no mass-produced consumer goods like clothing, no public utilities (electricity, water, sewer, gas, weekly garbage pickup), no working computers, no pre-packaged foods, no frozen dinners, no fast food, no working refrigerators or freezers, no modern medical supplies or medications, no working washers or dryers, no way to get news from outside of your immediate area, no MP3 players, no video games, etc. All those modern conveniences we’ve come to rely on – gone, completely gone.
To make matters worse, shortly after oil stopped being available and things began falling apart, several epidemics wiped out a lot of the population. So what are we left with? Pockets of people living in isolated rural areas who have no idea how many people survived anywhere else or even if they did. If someone in your area doesn’t have certain kinds of skills or can’t figure them out without much help then the area has to do without them.
Eleven-year-old Jasper Copeland and his friends don’t really remember the time before. They were too young when it happened. Their parents and the other adult town folk remember though, only too well. The changes have been harder for them to adjust to but their skills are all that has kept everyone going. Jasper’s dad is the town doctor and medical examiner in their upstate New York town of Union Grove in Washington County.
“Jasper had little recollection of what the old times were like except for a vivid sense memory of riding in an automobile all trussed up in a special seat designed to immobilize small children. He remembered the speed of objects rushing past a window, and the brightly illuminated signs of commerce, and his own discomfort in the strangely aromatic plastic seat…”
Jasper’s best friend is his five-month-old yellow puppy, Willie. When Willie is stomped to death by the New Faith commune’s stallion, Jasper seeks revenge by feeding the horse enough opium in sour mash to kill it, even though he knows he will have to run away from home and the town when he does it to keep from being hung or shot for destroying such a valuable animal. Justice is harsh in Jasper’s world and he knows being a young boy won’t stop him from being punished as an adult would be.
“His [Jasper’s] moral sense informed him that grave and terrible things had been set in motion that could not be undone and would change his life. He was not yet lonely for his family. If anything, he was still angry at them, especially his father. He supposed that the discovery of his foul deed would turn even them against him.”
As Jasper sets out walking on his journey to who knows where, we get an in-depth look at the world as it has become through his eyes. The world is rife with bandits and thieves, like Billy Bones. Billy is just a teenager but he’s a ruthless one and is probably completely insane. Gang members got nothing on Billy Bones. And then there’s the witch in the nearby town of Hebron, only several days walking distance. She looks like a model from the before times, grants men sexual favors and people believe she has definite magical abilities. And she’s not alone. The leader of the New Faith evangelical group also has some serious mojo, and he’s using it to track down Jasper.
A lot of dystopian novels have elements that are quite far-fetched and/or the time period is too far removed from what happened to change the world. This novel takes place only a few years afterward. Electricity has just stopped in some places, for example. James Kunstler’s journalism background and his researching abilities are clear in that he has drawn from history and the way Americans behave to paint a very believable portrait of how life could realistically be in a post-oil society. It’s easy to see how quickly the veneer of society can erode and how the essence of who people are, good, bad or indifferent, still remains – only more so without the nation-wide agreements (laws) that used to control them.
The Witch of Hebron is one of those novels that is fascinating from Page 1. It quickly became a book I couldn’t put down. Although it’s a highly complex story, I didn’t really realize just how complex until after I finished it because it is so artfully written. Now I feel compelled to go back and read Book #1, World Made by Hand. The Witch of Hebron is a wonderfully entrancing story above all else and that is just one reason I believe it should be on your reading list.
The Witch of Hebron was originally released in 2010, so you should be able to get it at your favorite bookseller below. Just click on the button to go there and buy it.
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One lucky reader will win a finished copy of The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler.
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 12/17/2011, at 11:59pm EST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 18 years old to enter this giveaway.
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