Robert Earle lives in Union Grove, a little piece of America touched by history, good fortune and the malaise of the collapse of modern society. After the Oil disappears and the age of Globalism is over the people make a living by digging out bits of the Modern world to rebuild a semblance of Post-Civil war America.
Robert Earle was a corporate executive with two kids and a family. He lived the high life, flying across the country 3 or four times a month, first class of course. After the Oil dried up and the Modern world collapsed in Nuclear Fire, Plague and ennui Robert was left alone in union Grove, his wife and daughter dead, his son long gone into the wilderness. When a group of strangers come to town led by a man as equally worldly as he is religiously ardent; Robert is caught up in the rapid changes that only new blood can bring.
Before I being my review; I’d very much like to ask James Howard Kunstler to please sell the rights to this novel as a movie as soon as possible. A novel about a post-apocalyptic world that doesn’t simply descend into cheap nihilism is as refreshing as a cool breeze in summer and it has been a long hot summer this year.
I will have to admit that at points I had to restrain myself from siomply giving up and throwing in with some of the characters from the novel, they are a likeable and entrancing group. Brother Jobe and his New Faithers are a composite group that I have described to others as “Industrious Mormons who Drink and Fight Like Sailors” which I think is the most apt description. They arrive in Union Grove like shadows but bombastically “take over” helping revitalize a town caught in the doldrums of a slow death, mourning the lost world.
Robert Earle is one of the many single men in town, acting as the local carpenter and somtime lover to his best friend’s wife. He lives his life fishing, woodworking and playing in the local musical group. He tolerates the Former Bikers who have taken up as scrap merchants and archeologists, has an amicalable relationship with the local Laird, a plantation owner and is respected in the town. When a young man is murdered and it falls to the loca Laird to adjudicate, Robert finds himself thrust into more than one situation that requires him to be more than just upright and moral. A sometimes hero and sometimes confidant, Robert is a strong lead character. If I was to make any complaint, Robert (like many a post-apocalyptic hero before him) is an amzing man who cannot step through the day without being set upon by love crazed women; such is his sheer physical prowess. By the time he had bed his second woman, I was already tired of the concept. This stands as my only complaint about the novel and should be set aside as a personal complaint and no real black mark on the book itself.
Mr. Knustler has taken great pains to give some obvious archtypes voice without heavioy playing the statements; the denizens of the trailer park are rough red-staters who would claim that just punishment for their crimes was oppression (even as they are oppressing themselves and their clan), the government is staffed by people who look to others to solve their problems (but are quick to use force to prove a point), Religious fervor has replaced community in places and it is up to the common folk to solve their own problems regardless of how insurmountable they seem.
“World Made By Hand” was rewarding to read and I STRONGLY recommend it to fans of political fiction, dramatic fiction and post-apocalyptic faire. In a world where the sudden report of a radio tuned to static is an alien and foreign thing, Mr. Kunstler has crafted a believable and utterly fascinating novel that bears repeated reading.