cover image The Harrows of Spring

The Harrows of Spring

James Howard Kunstler. Atlantic Monthly, $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0802124920

Kunstler returns to his fictional post-oil world in this sequel to World Made By Hand. This time he focuses on the inhabitants of Union Grove, N. Y., who have decided to live a simpler, agrarian way of life after civilization was destroyed by its own decadence. It is a constant struggle to pool resources and the novel begins with Union Grove in the scant season between winter and spring, "the six weeks want." Robert, the ad-hoc mayor, is supporting his girlfriend through her grief over her daughter's sudden death. The town doctor's existential crisis has morphed into drug and alcohol addiction. And one of the few well-supplied farmers has resorted to nailing dead bandits to trees to ward off future attacks. Supplies and morale are low when members of the self-proclaimed Berkshires People's Republic waltz into town, singing "This Land Is Your Land." Their talk of a socialist federation is revealed to be a protection racket: when not grandstanding about privilege and diversity, the "Berkies" kill cattle and burn down barns. They're assisted by a band of pillagers and a misanthropic sniper. These caricatures are too inelegant to be satire, and not pointed enough to be parody. Fans of Kunstler's work might enjoy the ongoing saga of Union Grove; new readers will find it hard to jump in. (July)