"The world has become such a wicked place," she said quietly, just a statement of fact
"There's goodness here too."
"Where is it?"
"In all the abiding virtues. Love, bravery, patience, honesty, justice, generosity, kindness. Beauty too. Mostly love."
"I'm afraid sometimes that we drove those things out of existence."
"No, we carry them in our hearts. They're always with us."
"I don't know what's in my heart anymore. It's too dark to see."
"Light follows darkness."
This dialog between the main character of World Made By Hand, Robert, and his housemate-become-lover, Britney, offers a glimpse into the anguish of those few survivors of collapse living in the small village of Union Grove, New York in a post-petroleum world.
As I sit down to write this review, I've just finished lunch-a generous bowl of organic broccoli slaw mixed with garbanzo beans, tomatoes, diced turkey breast, and Caesar dressing. For dessert, a bit of Hagen Dazs coconut sorbet chased with my twice-daily regimen of vitamins and supplements. In a "world made by hand" I would have none of this unless I were able to grow or raise it myself or trade something for these items, assuming that they were even available. I would be forced to rely on my friends and neighbors in close proximity, and they on me, for life's fundamental necessities.
I was riveted to this stunning novel by James Howard Kunstler even as my heart was laden with sorrow while turning every compelling page. Like nothing I've ever read or imagined, the book takes the reader into the smells, tastes, textures, sounds, and emotions of a post-petroleum world devoid of electricity, media, sophisticated technology, and a plethora of conveniences and distractions that are ubiquitous in twenty-first century Western civilization.
Robert is a former corporate executive who has adapted reasonably well, or so it seems, to a post-collapse world where "It was chilling to reflect on how well the world used to work and how much we'd lost." (4) In this world there are no cars, no rubber tires, no shopping malls, big box stores, healthcare systems, radio, television, or paper money. However, "Farming was back," and that was the only way people got food. Travel in this world is about walking, riding horses, or hitching horses to wagons with wooden wheels, and people make do by stripping everything in sight-houses, stores, cars-anything that will provide materials for survival. The residents of Union Grove and the surrounding area have survived horrible pandemics and were fortunate enough not to be living near Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. when nuclear bombs went off, apparently dealing the final blow to a tanking economy. Robert lost his wife to the flu epidemic and a son who took off with a friend's son to "see the world", and while Robert knows his wife is dead, he has no idea where or how his son might be.
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