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The Fifth Sacred Thing Paperback – Jun 1 1994

63 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (June 1 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553373803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553373806
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.2 x 23.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #144,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the third time I have read this book. It seams every 2 or 3 years I need to ground myself. I find this story particularly inspiring. The story take place about 50 years in the post apocalyptic future where San Francisco has become a watershed of witches, healers, storytellers, musicians, etc. All have respect for the 4 scared things (earth, air, fire, water) and keeping them in balance allows the fifth sacred thing (spirit) to flourish. I love the politics of the different councils, the sharing of work, the value of the calorie and nonviolence resistance of the Steward Army who travel North to claim the water and trees. It is a passionate, uplifting, clever (and at times violent) tale of human spirit and endurance. Enjoy the read. PS Not intended for the squeamish or sexually conservative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joy Parker on Sept. 25 2002
Format: Paperback
Over the last few years I've reread this book time and time again and always find it as deeply moving and inspiring as the first time I read it. Periodically, I buy this book for friends and when I do, I come back to this page and read the reviews. I can't help but feel that many reviewers have missed the point. The reason this book is so remarkable is that it deals with a human truth so fundamental as to often be missed: You can't change society until you transform human consciousness. No legislation, no religious movement, no self-help group, no philosophy is going to do it. Only each individual human being learning how to be aware, to find their own unique spiritual expression, to practice tolerance of the lifestyles and the spiritual belief systems of others will make a fundamental difference. When each individual person knows the earth is sacred in a personal and experiential way and intimate way because they have taken the time to BE with the world, only then will we truly find ways to preserve and protect it.
In the San Francisco portrayed in this novel, no child goes unnurtured or uneducated, no one goes hungry, no person is without a home. It's a sad situation when we have to think of this state of affairs as "science fiction." Almost every person who falls between the cracks in our society starts out in life with a family and a community. Perhaps we can't help everyone, but if each person just did what was in front of him or her to do, there would be less suffering in the world.
The building of solid community and healthy inter-dependence is another key to this novel. We live isolated lives but, truly, we need each other. We are stronger when we are connected with others. There is a verse in the Bible that says, "A people without a vision perish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 14 2012
Format: Paperback
I think this book is maybe the greatest thing Starhawk ever did. It's a monument of imagination, where she fully fleshes out the alternative society of her dreams -- how it will function, think, and feel. She imagines just about the worst disasters we could throw at ourselves, in our present state of mind, and then plausibly shows how the society of witches could emerge from that, as a victory of basic human decency. Of all alternative worlds I've seen in books or screens, I like this one the best.

--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
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By Grail on April 26 2002
Format: Paperback
I just sat down and read The Fifth Sacred Thing in one sitting.
That probably give you an indication, that yes - I enjoyed this book!
I *am* biased though, I'm pagan.
It was nice... the story was in my language, but that means I may have perceived some events differently to others (I'm probably fairly unique in my inexplicably bursting into tears on page 18 though...).
Also, it's a good *story*, but I'm in no way thinking it's depicting realistic future utopia/distopia. It's fantasy - but of the worldview changing, inspiring genre, like... the 'Door into Fire', and so many others.
Part of it does fall into the same category of science fiction 'cautionary tales' as 1984 etc, and happily, perhaps a new category 'inspirational tales'.
As for the story, it curiously reminded me of 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' by Robert A. Heinlein. Of course, instead of a self aware super-computer on our heras & heroes side, we have bees, magic, Goddesses & ghosts... (although, similar family structures???)
And although it is about two populations of people who are not going to fold against a threat, there is the little difference in that their reactions are almost polar opposites.
I'd never felt compelled to read this book, but I'm really, really glad I did!
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Format: Paperback
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I recently read it again for the third time. The line I remember the most is: "All war is first waged in the imagination. "
In this book, the Fifth Sacred Thing is Spirit, or more precisely Human Spirit. While that statement is broad in its ramifications and very debatable, I think the message and brilliance of the novel is more than evident when you read it. It's a well crafted story that takes you from human paradise to human hell and then back again. Very few dare do this, and of those that try, very few get it right. Starhawk gets it right.
It's a charming book that shocks you and then comforts you and then abandons you. It leaves you alone, in the wasted, twisted remains of a bombed out L.A. which is now called Angel City. Only English is allowed to be spoken. You are left struggling for breath, any breath, all breath, as the world around you burns. A young child is raped and then killed. Violent murder is done at your innocuous request, by pale beautiful genetic eunuchs. You feel empty... used up... worthless...
You are rescued from this hell and cast into another: drifting out to sea and too tired to swim ashore. You are rescued again. You return home, only to find one of your worst nightmares to have become a reality.
What do you do?? How does it end??
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