Blog: Another Read Through

May Book Review

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June 14, 2017 // monthly book review

I’ve been reading so slowly lately that I only have a few books to choose from for May reads. I rarely read fantasy, but:

The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk; 3 (out of 5) stars

There is such love in this book that at times it’s a bit overwhelming. What a grand scope and idea. It took me a little while to get into it, and then a long time to read it (like at least twice as long as I feel like it should have taken) but I really did like what she was doing and I liked the story, the writing, the book itself. It wasn’t written entirely in alternating chapters of viewpoints, but it was close, and I was glad to be with Bird when we were with him, and with Madrone when we were with her.

The utopia she creates is, well, just that, and it’s a nice break from the dystopia that is in so many books, and in reality right now. But she doesn’t just create a utopia, she fights for it and argues for it, and I appreciate that. She makes a world where sexuality, gender, and race all exist but don’t matter. Class is mostly erased. Nonviolence is one of the only rules, and she doesn’t allow it to go untested. So it’s not just a story about this magical, wonderful place that feels like both heaven and an impossibility. She shows us how they got there and almost how to build it (except there is witchery and magic, probably because it’s impossible to create this otherwise) and at least in part how to sustain it and fight for it.

I really wish the cover had an obviously brown woman on it, though. Madrone is not white and there is no reason to misrepresent her this way. I hate that in my head, I kept picturing white people, even when I knew the characters weren’t white. (This is not the book’s fault; I understand that it is mine.) But it would have been nice if the cover of the book didn’t reinforce my bias.

There are many good ideas here, and interesting philosophical discussions. I also thought it was an interesting choice to put it in the future but the very near future, not even a few generations away. I’m glad I read this.

From her dedication, after mentioning specific children: “…and to all the new ones who must live in the future that we create or destroy with our choices today.”

“It was beautiful and fierce and fragile, like a lot of things.”

“‘War is the great waster, as much in the preparations for it as in the waging of it.'”

“‘The ends don’t justify the means,’ Maya said. ‘That was what I learned from Vietnam, from the war and the protests against it. The means shape the ends. You become what you do.'”

“‘What good is it all if we can’t defend it? And how do we defend it without becoming what we’re defending against?'”

“‘…peace can’t grow out of violence.'”

But she doesn’t just throw these platitudes out. She allows her characters to know the contradiction in living those values and their lives, and in meeting violence. I am glad that she takes this book where she does, that she doesn’t avoid the hard stuff, even in this utopia. I really appreciate what she did here.

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