World Made by Hand

I finished up World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler yesterday. Another post-catastrophe book but in this case the catastrophes are several years in the past. Robert Earle tells the story. He's a carpenter, a widower and becomes the mayor of his little town Union Grove. The story starts as a friendly religious sect moves into town, taking over the old high school that has been closed for several years. The people are led by Brother Jobe who takes an active interest in his new community. These newcomers cause Earle to start reevaluating the community and make him decide to start making the town thrive, not just survive.

It is a solid book. We never find out exactly what caused the world to dwindle. We hear of a few mass illnesses the caused population die offs after things began going downhill. LA and Washington DC were apparently hit with some sort of small scale nuclear devices. Global warming gets a mention, and war, and peak oil. but nothing is concrete.

I didn't like that there were no real female characters. they are all archetypes, not real people. Yes, it does make sense for the young mother whose husband has died to move in with someone else but does she have to be so stereotypically helpless? There are no women on the city's council at all. I find it hard to believe that all the women who had careers and positions of responsibility would be content to let the "menfolk" make all the decisions going forward. It also bothered me that none of the people seemed to have apprentices. I mean, if you've got one dentist and one doctor (either of which could have been a woman with NO difference in story) shouldn't they have a younger person or two around that they are training? Earle is apparently a very skilled carpenter which is a great skill to have, yet no one has a child they would want to learn that skill?

overall i give this one a 5. Lots of action and Earle is a great narrator. a few tweaks and i would have loved it.

other opinions: Jenclair, Indextrious Reader.


  1. I like your point about apprentices. One of the aspects of the early part of the novel is the lack of future planning on the part of the town. Brother Jobe (that strange fellow) and the gentleman farmer were the only ones with a vision of improvement.

    I would find that believable in the first months or years after the disaster, but the town (with quite a few educated and intelligent people) was apathetic for so long .


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