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When the English Fall by David Williams

 

When the English Fall is a fascinating, dystopian novel that uses journal entries to recount the unraveling of present day society from the point of view of an outsider community. The journal’s author is an Amish man named Jacob, who firmly believes in his religion’s dedication to peace, family, and community. It is in his words that the story begins and ends, as day by day Jacob records his family’s life on their Pennsylvania farm and their interactions with the English. When an unprecedented disaster brings nearby cities to a grinding halt, the cities’ inhabitants turn to the Amish farmers for help; but they also intrude upon them with violence. As lawlessness and acts of savagery intensify, Jacob’s peaceful community is forced to make hard decisions. Author David Williams grants us access into a closed society, a reminder of how reliant the rest of us are on technology to sustain our way of life—and that even the most steadfast will struggle in the face of chaos. When the English Fall is a gripping story, with an ending that made me want to go back and read it all again…–Seira Wilson
Review
A July 2017 Indie Next Pick • Library Reads Selection • July 2017 Amazon Top 10 Best Book of the Month

“A standout among post-apocalyptic novels, as simply and perfectly crafted as an Amish quilt or table. Lyrical and weirdly believable.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A quiet, ideas-focused dystopian novel that will stay with readers long after they have turned the final page.”
—Library Journal, starred review

“When the English Fall takes its place in the landscape of post-collapse survivalist fiction as satisfyingly as a puzzle piece clicking into a gap. You’ll read it and wonder how you never realized it was missing. Jacob’s determination to remain true to his faith, his struggle to protect his family and aid his neighbors while chaos gathers around him, is both convincing and affecting, and gradually, without ever seeming to grasp for it, his humble, questing voice accrues a surprising power.”
—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead

“Entrancing [and] deceptively simple, lulling, holding, at times, the power of prayer.”
—Boston Globe

“An unusually good post-apocalyptic novel.”
—Christian Science Monitor

“A fascinating debut.”
—B&N Sci-Fi blog

Review

New perspective on a world gone topsy turvy, post apocalyptic.
The telling of Jacob captivates the reader, getting through it all, what takes place, and what road he will traverse upon, an empathy grows with the telling.
His writing in his journal has him have a voice to see the world through, come to realize his fate and faith, his spiritual struggle with the terrible world he finds himself in.
The authors lucid prose style delivers the tale into a memorable first person gripping narrative, a must read.



“I was not. Though I could not stay in the Order that my father had taught me, neither was the world for me. The world made me sick. Not with hate. Not sick with hate. Just sick. It was wildness, churning chaos. It upset my soul, making me dizzy like a little boy spinning circles in the field. The spinning is fun at first, but then you cannot stop, because if you stop, you fall and your stomach turns inside out. I haven’t ever liked that. And I like spirit sickness least of all.”

“Everyone in Lancaster seems to be doing all right so far. But the world is not just Lancaster. There are larger cities, places where there are no fields and farms nearby, and where there is more violence. Pittsburgh, apparently, is bad. And other farther places, things were beginning to get bad. The biggest cities, like New York and Washington and Baltimore and Los Angeles. Rumors of violence. But just rumors. “Who knows anything anymore,” Isaak said. “It all feels like gossip, like none of it is real.” in the house, mike is sleeping.”

“But then there was a patter of shots, and one of the soldiers went down, and the crowd surged forward. Then the soldiers opened fire.” Abram went quiet again. “He told me there were at least a hundred dead. At least. Many of them women and children. And then he said they had heard more stories just like that.”

“And there, in the air beneath the canopy of the oak, I saw a single bright yellow leaf. It was not falling. It hovered, whirling, floating and bobbing and moving. It did not fall. It refused to fall.
I watched it as it danced, defying the fall, a leaf that would not come to earth. It was magic, this leaf. A soft morning breeze rose up, and the golden leaf lifted upward, arcing back toward the branches that had cast it down. Like a fallen angel, repentant, straining back toward heaven. I knew what I was seeing, even though I could not see it. Attached to the leaf, defying my sight, beyond my human seeing, there was a single silver thread. That cord was there, though I could not see it, strong as steel, light as air. I knew this. It was woven by a spider, and fixed to the leaf, and fixed to the tree.
That is why I was seeing a leaf that would not fall. I knew this. But it still seemed magical. Just like everything in our world.”

“It really is getting worse,” Jon said. “On the ride back, I heard that there was a big firefight between police and National Guard and some armed gangs from Philadelphia. Not like street gangs, these were just armed men who had gathered together to take what they needed. The gangs had moved from looting stores to moving through neighborhoods, taking food from every house, and shooting anyone who wouldn’t give them what they wanted.”

“Yet when I came here, and in a time of testing and prayer Jonas Beiler heard of my spiritual struggle, it was he who told me to set aside that bitterness. Do not let the poison of your spirit keep you from the truth. Do not forget the power of a time of testing.
And so as I write, every day, I remember. Writing the words helps me remember.”

“Here we were, and we prospered. Our hard work and diligence was rewarded by Providence. There was food, there was plenty, and our faith was without trial. It was easy to become prideful, or to become convinced of God’s protection. Yes, we had to be disciplined, and yes, being among our brethren and renouncing the easy path of the English required strength of purpose. But the kind of strength to endure times of trial, and to stand unwilling to turn a hand against those who would harm us? Would starve us? Would destroy our bodies, even as our souls remain intact? That, for a while, has been a trial that we have not had to endure in this country. Now, though, the time has shifted. The world itself has shifted. I must trust in my faith, that it will endure this testing.
Is that not the purpose of faith? Surely it is.”

“The news of the morning was that the delivery in Lancaster had not gone well. Again, there were disruptions, and the crowd was bigger, and there was less food. People were hungrier, and women were crying, and men were angry and most were armed. Order was maintained, but everyone was growing more desperate.
Alongside the roads, the piles of trash were growing, and stories of looting and killing for supplies were everywhere. Many stories were rumors and untrue, but there was some truth to parts of it. Too much truth.
Word had gotten out that the National Guard had been ordered to shoot looters on sight, and there was now a curfew. No travel after dark, for any reason.”

“the three of us arrived, and it was as Jon had said. The farm was very quiet. There the bodies were out in the drive, two large, two so very small. They had fallen together, close to one another, just a heap, like a pile of meat dumped on the road.”

“Because we know, now, that as the world of the English fails around us, we are not separate. Yes, we have the Order, and yes, we have our way, but the time when that meant we stood free from the world has passed.”

“There are shots now again, bursts here and there, far away, and I cannot sleep. I think of this man in his hunger, shot like a rabbit raiding a garden. For what, Lord? For stealing corn intended for pigs and for cattle, like the hungry prodigal helpless in a strange land.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 28 July 2017