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Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain all life - earth, air, fire, and water - are valued unconditionally. Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are property of their husbands or the state, and children are bred for prostitution and war. The best and worst of our possible futures are poised to clash in twenty-first-century California, and the outcome rests on the wisdom and courage of one clan caught in the conflict. Ninety-eight-year-old Maya has helped shape the ecumenical culture of the North by reviving and re-creating an earth-based spiritual tradition. Madrone, the granddaughter of Maya's longtime lovers, is a healer trying to thwart recurring epidemics that she suspects are biological warfare waged by the tyrannical South. Bird, Maya's grandson, returns from ten years in a Southern prison with warnings of impending invasion and an urgent request for help from the resistance in the hills. When Madrone travels south to aid the rebels and search for a cure to the deadly viruses, she finds herself fighting for her own life alongside battle-weary guerrillas and beautiful pirates. Meanwhile, in the North debates rage about how to repel the invaders. "All war is first waged in the imagination, first conducted to limit our dreams and visions, " Maya says, and warns that by killing their enemies, they may themselves become transformed by vioience and destroy all they have built. Bird champions heralternative vision and becomes a leader of the faction calling for nonviolent resistance. When he is captured and pressured to cooperate with the enemy, the fate of the North hangs in the balance. Richly imagined and beautifully written, The Fifth Sacred Thing is a powerful novel o
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About the Author

Starhawk, author of The Fifth Sacred Thing and Walking to Mercury, lives with her husband, stepchildren, and Goddess-children in San Francisco, where she works with the Reclaiming collective.

Reviews

Known for her works in women's spirituality and ecofeminism, Starhawk has conjured a visionary tale of a multicultural community of witches where poverty, prejudice, hunger, and thirst do not prevail. The surrounding world, set in present-day San Francisco, manifests every 20th-century nightmare: ozone depletion, deadly pollution, a fundamentalist religion-based government, and food and water shortages. The central question haunting a community of well-cast characters is how to resist invading Southern forces without resorting to violence. This strong debut fits well among feminist futuristic, utopic, and dystopic works by the likes of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ursula LeGuin, and Margaret Atwood. Starhawk is the author of The Spiral Dance ( LJ 11/1/79), Dreaming the Dark ( LJ 9/15/82), and Truth or Dare (HarperSanFrancisco, 1989). Recomended for literary collections.-- Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

In her sometimes clumsy but compelling first novel, the author of The Spiral Dance (a central work in the women's spirituality movement) considers two possible futures for America. In ecologically devastated mid-21st-century California, San Francisco is a precariously maintained oasis, its society based on egalitarianism and environmentalism, its deeply spiritual populace possessed of psychic and mystical powers. Drought-plagued southern California suffers under an oppressive, militaristic, technocratic regime that spouts a perverted Christian ideology. After 20 years of uneasy peace, the south's armies mass to invade the north, whose militantly nonviolent denizens must decide how to defend themselves without compromising their pacifism. Starhawk delivers her message with a heavy hand and several cliches: her besieged utopia echoes the liberal politics and ecofeminism of her nonfiction; her dystopia features the overused SF bugbear of Christian fanaticism. However, she creates memorable characters--a young midwife, a broken musician, an old Witch-Woman--and skillfully conveys their emotions in gripping, sometimes harrowing scenes set against vivid backdrops. Though the resolution is somewhat pat--and an obvious plug for Starhawk's philosophy--the story is moving and absorbing. ( May )

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