For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is not what they expected it would be.
In this arresting work of speculative fiction, social critic James Howard Kunstler takes an imaginative leap into the future, a few decades hence, and shows what life may be like following the long emergency, after the terminal decline of oil production and the disruptions of climate change put industrial civilization as we know it out of business.
After these catastrophes converge, leading to resource wars and global pandemics, the residents of the small New York town are forced to do whatever they can to get by. They grow all their own food, at great expense of time and energy, and the largest business in town is the dump, mined for anything usable. With transportation so slow and dangerous, life has gotten extremely local and the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people can’t be sure.
As the heat of summer intensifies our narrator, Robert Earle, former marketing executive turned carpenter, and his fellow residents of Union Grove struggle with the new way of life. Robert, coping with the loss of family, tries to push through changes in the meager town government and is sent on a mission to Albany to track the crew of a vanished trading boat. His close friend Loren, the town minister, faces his own dwindling faith as well as the arrival of a radical sect that promises stability. Their challenges play out in a dazzling, fully realized world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers replenished with fish. Driven by realistic conflicts and peopled with relatable, engaging characters, World Made by Hand is an extraordinary novel full of love, loss, violence, power, desperation, but also plenty of hope.