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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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The Fifth Sacred Thing + Spiral Dance The - 20th Anniversary
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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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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Yum April 26 2002
By Grail
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A Vision For Our Today Jan. 10 2002
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Starhawk's monument
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... Read more
Published on June 14 2012 by Brian Griffith
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book
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. Read more
Published on March 2 2004 by Jay
1.0 out of 5 stars The editorial reviewer is right on
I have to agree with the first review. The novel contains vital messages of ecological sustainability, gender equality, and intriguing use of "supernormal" human... Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2003 by S. Donovan Mullaney
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read fpr all Pagans.
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2003 by "adyoa"
5.0 out of 5 stars Pagans, ecologists,'ll love this Utopia
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2003 by L. Fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Tale of the Struggle To Reclaim and Heal the Earth
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! Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2003 by Hathor EarthFyre
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book
I have read this book 3 or 4 times now and have given copies to my friends. It envisions an earth honoring utopia and pracitcalities of how magic may work. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2002 by Jay
1.0 out of 5 stars Calls for the end of America
The book describes a world where Northern California has become a communist country and the last capitalist city is in Southern California. Read more
Published on July 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing
this is one of those novels u won't put down. like reading a mantra, it will effect u on every level. Read more
Published on July 15 2002 by abby
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Vision
I quite honestly didn't expect much of this book. I don't know why, I just didn't. I am so happy to have read it and it is one of the best books I have read. Read more
Published on June 28 2002
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