Dystopian, Fiction, Loved-it, NetGalley, Spiritual

What Happens To A Pacifist When He Has To Fight For His Family? When The English Fall by David Williams - not your traditional apocalyptic tale

I find myself struggling to start this review. Because the book was just so unbelievable, I find myself at a lack of words.

so many feelings right now

What would it be like to watch the end of the world as a bystander? As someone who has always thought that living that way was not wise, but had to hold onto that opinion as nobody really cared for it?

I should start with the fact that this is a dystopian book. However, it’s not your typical dystopian book. You will not find zombies or adventure here. Nor will you find fast-paced action and gore. You might find some terror, but it won’t be the scary kind. It will be the sad, regretful kind.

Jacob is Amish. He has worked the land as long as he’s been alive. He’s lived a simple life, and he’s happy living this way. Jacob’s daughter, Sadie, seems to have a sickness, most likely epilepsy, but it seems to be something more. Something more otherworldly, more like a gift. Sadie seems to know what will happen. And what will happen will bring an end to the world of the English – for Jacob’s community, the English means the outside world, the Western way of life. The scathing way of life. The kind that separates everyone from each other, and man from land. The kind of life Jacob does not understand.

And then one day it happens. Something of a natural disaster, magnetic or solar storm – it’s never explained, as we’re seeing it through Jacob’s eyes, and he doesn’t know these things. Whatever happens, cuts out all power sources of The English, and ends their way of life. Society begins of unravel, animosity does more harm than nature. Meanwhile, Jacob’s life hasn’t changed – the sun still shines, the rain still falls, so he tends to his crops and does his daily work as usual. But he can’t help wondering what will happen to the rest of the world. And he can’t help noticing the signs on danger all around him. The men that run around the fields with guns in the night. The army trucks that come to requisition food and other supplies. The rumors of slaughtered households. Jacob’s community seems to be the only people holding it together in a world that has changed irreparably overnight, and he’s at a loss about what to do. The Amish way is one of peace, of never hurting anyone. And so, Jacob and everyone in his community is faced with the choice – do they hide behind the Western man and pretend that it’s not the same that it wasn’t their hand that pulled the trigger? Or is the true way of peace about accepting the consequences, turning the other cheek and choosing the way of least violence?

pondering gif

It’s a truly heart-breaking tale of strength in the face of tragedy. Of faith, or just belief, or just being human the way humanity should be. It’s heart-wrenching and it’s utterly beautiful. This is a book you should read, if you enjoy musings on tough choices, morality and spirituality. I enjoyed this book unbelievably and I cried by the end. I must warn, it is not a fast-paced book, like I said. It’s not about action or movement. It’s about the geography of the human heart. If you enjoy books like that, you will greatly enjoy this one. And even though the voice is that of a Christian, especially an Amish Christian, you will not find it difficult to connect with Jacob’s feelings or beliefs. They’re so inherently human, that I believe we could all find them inside our hearts.

If this is not enough to convey how much I loved it, I’ll say one more thing. I do not really re-read books. But I can say for sure I will be re-reading this one, after I’ve had sufficient time to let the details go. I want to experience this book again. It was wonderful.

You support this blog by buying the book from Book Depository.

I thank David Williams, Algonquin Books and NetGalley for providing this book in exchange to an honest review.

Have you read any good apocalyptic stories about non-traditional communities?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

47 thoughts on “What Happens To A Pacifist When He Has To Fight For His Family? When The English Fall by David Williams - not your traditional apocalyptic tale

  1. Now this one really really seems up my alley, and I know I’ve said this a few times.

    I live pretty close to the Amish, in fact I passed two horse and buggies on the road on July 4th visiting my cousin who lives in a pretty rural area in PA. And I had never thought of how the “Apocalypse” or breakdown of society would play out from their perspective. This idea alone immediately grabs me.
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    1. You’re right, it totally feels like your kind of book 🙂 you should definitely check it out. It was so good! And it’s very interesting some Amish people live by you. I’m from Europe myself, so I’ve never seen one outside of TV, really. And I knew very little about their societies before this book. If the book does them justice, their beliefs are truly beautiful. And it is a shame that we only ever find out about the negativities, as reality shows and such seem to portray the Amish society as quite backwards and cold, when if we believe this book that is something they are absolutely not. So it’s always good to hear both sides of the story, I guess.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, imagine this – I was listening to it through a reader app while doing my rounds in the stadium, putting in my daily steps. When I reached a certain point, I just stopped in my tracks to listen to it and then nearly wept there in the stadium! It was that strong. I had to give it a few more cycles ’round in silence, to process everything I just listened to.

  2. I use to, when going to Sunday School and read the Left Behind series and watch the Kirk Cameron Movies of the same, what it would be like with certain tribes, providences, solitude groups, islanders, and who ever else I can think of that could be left behind and have to go through a “dystopian” like happening. At the time though I never knew the word. I knew, to every beginning, there’s an ending, especially all that went from good and starts to degrade in life (or life choices).

    Anyway, this book looks like a book of list to ad to my (physical) shelf of end of world books. (slightly off subject, I also want to get the copy of Time Machine). I like to read perpective books and watch creative shows on twist that people take for granted or forget about when in a genre. This book should be read. I will definitely add it to my will read books.

    Thank you for the recommendation, Evelina!

    1. Yes, you’re right, this is a very interesting topic. I wonder if other books exist where tribes or indigenous people deal with the apocalypse, like you said? Do you know anything in particular?
      I’m glad you want to read it, and as always, it’s a pleasure for me to recommend 🙂

      1. in the book realm, no, not really any books I came across like this topic. I’ve seen similar effects in Twilight Zone shows or Outer Limits TV Series. I do wish they write more like this, or wish I had the ability or the time to write one. That would be a great subject to write about. Such What if the world of Humanity came to an end except for a South American very, very secluded group of tribes that is totally not in touch with the rest of humanity on the planet. Would they finally evolve or would they populate and stay the exact same way for another thousands of years while the rest of the planet is w/o the same species any more…

        I wonder if their is a book, and if I find one before you, I’ll pass it on to you. Until then, I’ll just enjoy your book reviews.

        1. Wow, yes! If you find anything like that, please do recommend it. It would be great if someone wrote that. But I bet they would have to do loaaaads of research. That would be so amazing though!

  3. Hmmm….I also live right near thick Amish country, and I have to say, portraying the whole community as peaceful and completely not reliant on the “English community” doesn’t ring true. When I was teaching at a local college, many students I encountered had run away from the Amish community BECAUSE it’s not as peaceful as outsiders would like to believe. There are violent crimes just like anywhere else. Also, many Amish rely on “English” stores, vehicles, and even phones to get by. Many Amish communities now have electricity or at least batteries. The truly, truly unattached Amish sects are pretty rare. This book makes me suspicious. Did the author mention doing research or anything like that?

    1. That’s an excellent question, and an important one. We “English” have a tendency to romanticize the Amish, in ways that don’t represent how complex and challenging their community life actually is. In the book, there’s significant interpenetration between Amish and English. The protagonist, for example, relies on an English friend to market his woodwork online, and help manage his business. He owns (as do many Amish) a generator, which is used to power a washing machine. They are far more integrated into our technological culture than we (and perhaps they) would like to admit. As you note, the Amish also aren’t a unitary entity…there are countless variant Orders, usually the result of a split over some aspect of community life. And yes, some Amish settlements aren’t peaceful or pleasant…the protagonist has fled just such a one with his family. Of all of the research I did for the book, the definitive read is Donald Kraybill’s “The Riddle of Amish Culture” (Johns Hopkins University Press) which I’d commend as the most thorough and accessible scholarly ethnography of Amish life.
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      1. Those are great points, Mr. Williams, and you’ve given me a better idea of what is in your book. I feel like everywhere I go these days I see those Amish romance novels. Everyone from the gas station to my granny has them. I was worried this was another take on those kinds of stories. Granted, bad things happen in those novels, typically an unsanctioned pregnancy, but they’re still highly romanticized, from what I’ve been told. Thank you for clarifying and addressing my concerns!

    2. I was going to reply, but I now see that the author has explained it better than I would have 🙂 yes, the book centers on this one really benign community – and the main character mentions running away from another community he did not agree with at all. I’ve also heard the ‘bad’ tales about the Amish – that’s why it was pleasant to read about the ‘good’ kind – as there are two ends to any stick. So to say.
      Ultimately, this is what the book focuses on – how dependent really are they? Is it alright to say you’re not a killer, but hide behind the back of a person who kills for you? That’s the main point in question in this book, really. That’s what I liked most about it as well. And the book doesn’t claim that ALL the Amish are like that. Just this one community, or maybe even just this one family.

          1. Oh cool, just saw this second comment. Well, definitely point me to your review then, when you’ve got one 🙂

          1. Will do! The review will be either on Goodreads or this other blog, The Next Best Book Club, because I don’t publish reviews of books written by men at Grab the Lapels

          2. Oh, I don’t have another blog. I occasionally guest blog at this other site. It’s run more like a website than a blog, actually. It’s so big that the woman who runs it doesn’t really visit or chat with other blogs like we do. Because Grab the Lapels is a place for women, I mostly review the occasional book by a man over there!

  4. omg where do you find such great books??? there are so many enticing things about this one! Watching the end of life as we know it from a an Amish person perspective has to be like the most interesting way to experience it! You would think they would be so equipped to survive in the world after were modern technology is not available anymore but at the same time their believes may get in the way of surviving in a world that’s back to “the survival of the fittest” [meanest in this case]
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    1. In terms of actually making and growing their own food, I believe they would 😀 but in terms of beliefs… yeah, those in the secluded areas would be more lucky, I guess.
      Also, believe it or not, but I grabbed this one mostly because of that FAB cover. Look at it! 😀
      I guess I just get lucky 🙂 but you also read so many good books!

    1. I requested this book on Netgalley because of your review and I was just approved. I’m so excited and I just wanted to come here and say thank you! Without this review I never would have heard of this book.
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      1. Wow! This makes me very happy!! If it’s not too hard, please throw me a link of your review when you do review it 🙂 I am very curious about your opinion. I hope you like it just as much as I did!

  5. This sounds so deep and heart wrenching! I don’t know if I could deal ..great review Avalinah! You have conveyed your feelings and emotions perfectly xx

  6. I really loved this story too. I really like your review. My review style is not as effusive.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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