Most apocalyptic literature is full of violence, disease and despair painting a bleak if not downright terrifying picture of possible futures. But in World Made By Hand James Howard Kunstler paints a future that looks downright rosy.
A war in the Holy Land and nuclear retaliations on American soil have destroyed the economy. Oil, electricity, and all the modern conveniences they bring are gone. Information is scarce. There is a rumor that a President still in office but not in Washington D.C. That city is gone. But remote areas have been relatively unaffected by survivor violence and have returned to a rural way of life; a slower pace that it is clear the author longs for. Kunstler spends a great deal of time describing the scenery, new ways of completing everyday tasks and the homegrown foods that are eaten. The descriptions add appreciation for the lack of distraction that allows people to take pleasure in simpler things and their length gives the reader a sense of the slower pace of this new world. Work is hard and constant but rewarding. Even so, Kunstler does not neglect the fact that things can be painful and even dangerous. Imagine a trip to the dentist who now uses a foot treadle drill, the lack of anesthetic, and antibiotics and having to negotiate for needs from the towns seedier residents who have opened a co-op filled with items pilfered from houses and stores that aren't always unoccupied.
While this new life is idealized there is still enough conflict and realism to give the story interest. I enjoyed the book and read it in an afternoon although I admit to skimming some of the longer descriptive passages.
The sequel, The Witch of Hebron continues the story begun in The World Made by Hand.