The Witch of Hebron: A World Made By Hand Novel (2010)
James Howard Kunstler (1948-)
In this sequel to his novel World Made By Hand, James Howard Kunstler continues his vision of a post-apocalyptic America, as seen through the lives of the residents of the small, fictional town of Union Grove in upstate New York. The novel opens in mid-October, just a month or so after the events in the first concluded. (My review of World Made By Hand outlines the causes of the downfall, and its effects on America in general and Union Grove in particular, so I won’t repeat that here.)
An unfortunate accident in the first few pages of the story leads to a willful act by the son of the town’s doctor that drives the rest of the novel’s plot, and carries the action out of Union Grove and into the surrounding countryside as well as nearby hamlets and towns. The tenuous relationship between the original citizens of Union Grove and their new neighbors of the New Faith order continues its fitful development as events lead the two sides to work together, though at times with ulterior motives. The supernatural events that arise near the end of the first novel (somewhat surprisingly, as discussed in the earlier review) are expanded on in this one, as is intimated by the title.
Unlike the startling freshness of the first book, however, in which the dramatic effects of the all too realistic slide of American economy and society into a state of chaos maintain a firm grip on the reader’s attention, this sequel is a coming of age story in a by now familiar environment. Though the action does lead to glimpses of what life has come to in other nearby communities, this serves mostly as a reminder of how fortunate the citizens of Union Grove have it.
And, the story seems mostly focused on character development in preparation for future stories in the series. For example, very near the end of the novel, when the drama of the story has resolved itself, one of the main characters meets another, and “the man he had known pretty well for more than a decade took on a fiendish glow in the flickering candlelight” --- the foreshadowing here is about as subtle as a hammer.
The result is that, although an entertaining read, the story moves somewhat slowly towards its conclusion.
Other reviews / information:
A strong negative review at Casaubon's Book.
A more positive review by Lance Foster in the NY Journal of Books.
Other of my book reviews: FICTION and NON-FICTION