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The Fifth Sacred Thing [Paperback]

4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 1994
An epic tale of freedom and slavery, love and war, and the potential futures of humankind tells of a twenty-first century California clan caught between two clashing worlds, one based on tolerance, the other on repression.

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still my favorite book. May 27 2003
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Starhawk's monument June 14 2012
By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The editorial reviewer is right on Sept. 9 2003
I have to agree with the first review. The novel contains vital messages of ecological sustainability, gender equality, and intriguing use of "supernormal" human abilities in everyday life as the next stage of human society's evolution; however, while this would be a great book for a 12-18 year old, adult readers may find both the writing style and the story to be cliched and clumsy.
It's ultimately ground that Mercedes Lackey covers far more skillfully in her "Oathbreakers" and "Heralds of Valdemar" novels. I was deeply disappointed with this work and donated my copy to goodwill. I hear that Starhawk's non-fiction is much better, and I'll keep an open.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book March 2 2004
By Jay
This book is excellent Pagan fiction. I have read it six or seven times. I have bought copies as gifts for friends to enjoy. The characters are real. The story is gripping, and its main characters are Pagan!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read fpr all Pagans. Feb. 24 2003
By "adyoa"
As in her usual excellance in making the printed word come alive! I have reread it several times since I bought & have given it as a gift too. Great story line w/ very easy to relate to people in it. I own many of StarHawks how to, Witch books also. As a 3rd degree initiated Recaiming trad.High Priestess w/ 23 years on path. I feel that I am qualified to give this review.
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I just got done reading this book and I was crying for the last 15 pages! Unlike many cynics out there, I do believe the reality this book proposes is a possibility, and there are people who already live the Good Reality version in tiny communes...the key, as pointed out in the book, is to limit the complexity. Starhawk's vision of social communism works well in very small, self-governing societies...they bigger it gets, the more "Cress"'s (a character from the book) you get. Imagine many small communities like the one in the book, all going after, or at least systematically fending themselves off from "The Man," and who knows? As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
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I LOVED this book! I just bought a place up in the high Sierras which I plan to move to soon (from Silicon Valley, hurray!), and this book was the first item that I lovingly placed on the bookshelf there.
Starhawk's take on the state of the world reflects mine, and her vision of the future, unless we all reclaim and protect the elements from mankind's destruction and greed, is truly believable. The only thing that really stretched my imagination was the bee/honey thread in the story, but it was very unique, and valid in the context of what magic and a good, loving heart can achieve when a true connection to the Web of Life is present. I wish everyone would read this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Only a Change in Consciousness will Change Society Sept. 25 2002
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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