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LITERALLY THE BEST REVIEWS: When the English Fall

When the English Fall -- David Williams
Algonquin Books
256 Pages

When I visit the library to get books, I generally skip past the smaller books. I like the long tomes. I read so fast that shorter novels sometimes are satisfying to me as a reader. However, I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic novels. When I saw this book on the shelf, I initially moved right past it. I go back over the shelf three or four times before making my final selections, and my eye drew back to When the English Fall by David Williams. Once I read the summary, I adopted the book for a two week trial run.

This novel is written as a diary by Jacob, an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania. Things are already tough for Jacob and his family before the world comes to a screeching halt after a monster solar storm. His daughter, Sadie, has been having debilitating seizures and nightmares. Part of her affliction allowed her to have a bit of premonition, and she foresaw the fall of our technical civilization even if she didn't quite understand it.

The community is described as a very inclusive one, although they do relate with their "English" counterparts for work. They consider the people outside their community as English, hence the title of the book. When the solar flare sends the knockout punch, the community doesn't really feel the impact immediately. However, as time goes on, the food stores of the Amish neighbors became more and more attractive to the English who have suddenly been thrust into survival mode.


As the invading hordes of English threaten their way of life, the Amish must balance the line between helping their fellow man and protecting their own interests. They are nonviolent, but at some point they have to protect themselves. Throughout the threats and the drastic change in everyone's life, Jacob must protect his family and keep his way of life mostly intact.


David Williams' writing as Jacob is very folksy. The Amish life is a simpler life, and Williams captured this beautifully. The struggles of Jacob and his family and friends are set against the backdrop of a world falling apart. It examines how our lives are far too reliant on things that will not ensure survival. Basic skills have been usurped by quick thrills for shortening attention spans. So, when that way of life is destroyed, the people revert to their most basic instincts -- survival at any costs, even murder.


When the English Fall is a magnificent novel in its very simplicity. It gives the reader a look at the sometimes ugly truth of our society from a very beautiful place. While I am not sure the Amish community is as isolated as portrayed in this book, I know there is a definite separation between them and the "English."

This bookl is the first novel by David Williams. He is a Presbyterian pastor. According to his bio on Amazon, "he now serves a little church that is, like the T.A.R.D.I.S., much bigger on the inside. He also likes his motorcycles dirty, his coffee strong, and his beers hoppy." That right there gives him extra points in my book.  


Craig Bacon keeps a lot of food in his pantry. A lot of it is grown in his own yard. If the world ended tomorrow, he'd be able to survive beyond the first wave.


Originally published on Niagara's Water Cooler. Republished with permission.