When the English Fall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Aug 2017

Member Reviews

This book is a great addition to the Dystopian bookshelf that also provides insight into the Amish way of life.  It took some time to engage with the characters, and I was sorely saddened that it didn't end the way I thought it should, but it provided food for thought in these troubling times.
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WHEN THE ENGLISH FALL   by David Williams
This not your usual “end of the world” book.  It is a LOT better!  An Amish community is well prepared when a solar storm knocks out all machinery worldwide.  But the English (anyone not Amish) begin to run out of food and their money becomes worthless, civil society breaks down.  The Amish are called to help. When they do, their closed community is affected as never before.
Written entirely from the viewpoint of Jacob, an Amish farmer who lives near several large cities, the book explores the challenges and fears of a community that wants to avoid “the English” and their worldly ways.  Written with sympathy for both groups and displaying an intimate knowledge of the Amish, the book is a look into the future of a disaster. The one quibble with the book is a weak ending.
4 of 5 stars
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{Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC of When the English Fall free of charge.}

When I was a kid, I feel like the lights went out so darn often. Just so we are clear, the bill was paid, it was the whole neighborhood that would lose power. The worst that would happen in these situations, waaay back in the 80's, was that your alarm wouldn't go off, you couldn't watch TV, and the food in the fridge and freeze could be wasted. Obviously, that's not the world we live in anymore.  Can any of us live without our phones? NO.

When the English Fall by David Williams takes the power outage dilemma to an extreme. What would happen to the modern world without electricity or technology? That's the question being considered here.

The story is told from a unique perspective though - an Amish community in Pennsylvania.  While I appreciated the different view of the world, I was more interested in what was happening in the city that was falling apart than in the rural community on the fringe of the main action. The novel is well-written and realistic, but just not the story I wanted to read.
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A post-apocalyptic Forest Gump, When The English Fall explores the collapse of civilization through the eyes of an Amish colony in Pennsylvania.

Jacob’s daughter Sadie has repeated seizures in which she mutters strange statements. One that repeats over and over again is, “When the English Fall, when the English fall...” Later it is revealed that her statements are prophecies as Jacob and his family watch dazzling lights like angels descend on their nearby “English” town. The rest is the entire population loses power. No electricity, no cars, and even generators don’t work. Over a matter of weeks, Jacob witnesses the deterioration of that society and how reliant the population becomes on the Amish.

The Amish are a bit idealized in the story. It seems the universe is created just to demonstrate narrate the humble righteous of the Amish. Honestly, it comes off as lazy to me. There could have been more to the story than this. Every incident is a way to show the Amish in a better light rather than showing any nuance to the situation. Should we all live without power like the Amish?

I think the best part of the story was the message on violence. That violence is a sword with no handle. That it cuts both involved. Other than that this book is a paltry comparison to books like Fahrenheit 451 which has a superior focus on social issues and behavioral warnings. Honestly, I only picked this up since some school suggested it over Fahrenheit 451. There couldn’t be a bigger insult to it.
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Dystopias abound in contemporary literature, science fiction and literary fiction. Whether it's classics like The Handmaid's Tale and its terrifying prediction about where we might be heading, or modern staples like The Hunger Games that excited countless young readers, there is something about a good dystopian novel that sets it apart from other fiction. It is both art and warning, politics and literature, entertaining and educational. So I like to dig into whatever dystopian novel I can find, to see what it has to offer. When the English Fall was as mind-opening and beautiful as I could have wished. Thanks to Algonquin Books and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When the English Fall bridges a beautiful gap in dystopian literature. Usually these kinds of novels are set in faraway or fictional countries, or in our distant past where the foundations of the world we know now are hardly recognisable. They are often set in cities, focusing on young people's struggle to become themselves in a society that restricts individuality and emotion. In When the English Fall Williams does something completely different, making his novel one of the most enlightening and eye-opening I have read in the last few months. Some may dispute me calling it a dystopian novel but I feel like it fits, because When the English Fall shows us the downfall and chaos of a society that is both like ours and isn't, a world in which something has gone horrible wrong, a world in which our worst characteristics come to the forefront. Williams protagonists are an Amish family, mostly cut off from the modern day world aside from selective communications. I realized early on in When the English Fall that I had never really considered an apocalypse from their perspective. I also had the even more frightening realization that I would be literally lost if a solar storm like this hit and I'd have to rely on my knowledge of nature and farming. Eye-opening and horrifying indeed.

When the English Fall is also a philosophical novel. The oppositions between natural and manufactured, pacifist and aggressive, independent/alone and co-dependent/supported are all addressed in their own way by Williams. He does so mostly without preaching or becoming judgemental. There is clearly a sense in which he loves the way in which Jacob's family lives, yet he and the reader also senses just how far removed from the "modern world" they are. My favourite member of the family was the young daughter Sadie, who has strange insights into what is to come and what has to happen, while never losing that innocence and determination that signifies youth. Utterly confused and yet strangely calm and determined, she forges along down the path she has been set on, never once doubting her own instincts and the love of her family. It was a strangely empowering portrayal to read, and by the end of When the English Fall I was incredibly fond of her. Williams' novel is part of that fascinating 'found literature' trope that always leaves the reader slightly unsatisfied. What happens next? But what did they do then? How does it "end"? The Handmaid's Tale does the same and I think in part that is what gives books like these their strength; the fact that they don't provide you with all the answers, with an easy lesson to learn, but rather with questions you will have to think about for yourself.

David Williams manages to make you care for these characters through their virtue, rather than their suffering. Trust me, I know how saccharine this sounds and I slightly hate myself for putting it that way, but it's true. Jacob and his family are sketched by Williams with a kindness and love that shines in their actions. The way they help each other, support each other, appreciate and trust each other is truly beautiful and is what makes them so dear to the reader. A different aspect of When the English Fall that I really enjoyed was how slowly yet steadily Williams upped the ante. The whole novel is utterly calm and yet there is that consistent edge of danger and uneasiness that makes even the smallest movement suspicious. Perhaps that was one of the strongest messages of the novel, just how quickly those bonds of trust and understanding can fall away and leave everyone to suffer fear and danger alone, but also how strong those bonds can be, and how key to survival.

I adored When the English Fall and all it did. It made me think and question, gasp and smile. Williams describes a frequently explored situation from a previously unexplored angle, adding something new to a rich genre. I definitely can't wait to read whatever he writes next.
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This book was unlike anything I've ever read before. It had elements of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, but with a post-apocalyptic twist. I thought the structure of the novel, told through a series of diary entries was fantastic. We get to hear the innermost thoughts of a religious man who is suddenly faced with a test of his faith and convictions as the world around him and his community crumbles. The writing was excellent and I thought the plot moved at a decent pace. This is a quiet novel, not a page turner, but worth your time.
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When the English Fall by David Williams: In the wake of a catastrophic solar storm, modern civilization has completely collapsed, but where the English have failed, the Amish have thrived. Sharing supplies from their well-stocked larders, the Amish struggle to maintain their integrity when threatened by desperate men. A thought provoking study on human nature, When the English Fall explores the impossible choices of a nonviolent community suddenly met by violence.
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Unlike most dystopian books, this one is pretty mild. The world looses power when a solar flare destroys the grid and leaves most mechanical things unusable. The pace is much slower and lacking in an antagonist until human's baser nature takes over. In spite of that, it left me clearly affected by its message.
"When the English Fall" is written in the form of a diary. The narrator is a middle aged Amish man. Jacob and his small family lead a hard working, quiet but happy life and are nearly self-sufficient along with their community. The language he uses is simple and straight forward. He writes of his family, their work, his concerns, and his faith. He opens his heart on the page (albeit with a bit of guilt), and I really connected with his honesty.
Jacob's teen aged daughter, Sadie, has been experiencing seizures recently, and the whole family is very concerned about her. She seems to have a sense of the disaster to come. She seems almost otherworldly at times.
When the solar flare creates havoc for the rest of the world (the English), the lives of the Amish are minimally effected. They have a stock of non-perishable food and the means to harvest their crops. Because of this, they eventually become the center of attention for a world without means to feed itself using modern equipment. Sadly, they see their lives changed by the violent actions of those who find themselves desperate and starving.
The real beauty of the book, for me, was the absolute faith and commitment to a non-violent way of life exhibited by the Amish. The "English" world is in complete chaos, but the Amish continue to freely help when they can, even when their lives are threatened.
Although I was resigned to the ending, I was hoping that it would wind up different. I think the book gave a very clear look at a group of people who most of us would consider backward and naive. I suspect that like me, many readers might find that there is something to be admired in people who live lives of such faith and integrity. Even in the midst of hardship and loss, they exhibit the ability to peaceably accept what comes.
This book is a quick read in spite of it's slow burning plot. It will appeal to those who wish for or appreciate the idea of a simpler life and a faith in something other than man's power and prestige. It speaks of a form of courage that is rarely heralded by the world.
I found it to be a timely read with many of the current disasters and thought provoking as to where our world puts it's confidence and our future hope.
I thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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I'm very sorry to say this was a DNF for me. I gave up about 10% percent in, which may seem a bit hasty to some, but I had a very good reason, and that was... 

THE WRITING STYLE. 

It's just not my cup of tea and no matter what happens later on in the book, I know I'm not going to enjoy the proces of reading it. That is not to say that this book is badly written. It's just one of those rare instances where there is nothing essentially wrong with the writing style PER SE (in terms of grammar and structure), and yet it feels jarring. The main character is Amish and that really shows in the way he tells the story (no slang, bland vocabulary, no embellishments), and while this lends the book an extra layer of authenticity and character, it also makes it incredibly hard to read (at least for me). 

I still think the premise is fantastic, though, and the last thing I want is to discourage others from giving this book a try.
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After a powerful solar storm destroys electrical devices and causes civilization to crumble, an Amish farming community in Pennsylvania helps by supplying food to a neighboring town. But as things deteriorate, the outside world encroaches on their isolated society.


When the English Fall reviewWhen the English Fall (Algonquin Books, digital galley) is told through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob. As the story unfolds, Jacob recounts how the community puts its faith in traditional beliefs as a means of survival. But as the outside world descends into chaos, the Amish have to make a decision that may be calamitous to the future of their community.

From first-time novelist David Williams, When the English Fall is written in a measured and thoughtful voice. Williams’ characters feel authentic, and the decisions they make are always grounded in the principles of their religion. There is a reserved dignity in the way the Jacob records actions of the Amish. The novel shows that doing the right thing — even when knowing the outcome could be disastrous — has rewards all its own.

The novel does bring to mind John Matherson’s frantic and anxiety-ridden One Second After. But Williams is a superior writer and When the English Fall a more solid addition to the post-apocalypse library.
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This story of an Amish community follows one family through a societal breakdown of the "English," or in layman's terms, the rest of us.  It's a fascinating peek into another world and lifestyle, one whose ways seem antiquated until nothing works and those antiquated ways are the only way to move forward.  The book doesn't dwell on what exactly happened in the outside world, but develops the rich inner life of Jacob.  His concern for those he knows in and out of his community, his own doubts and questions about his community, and the hopeful and helpful way he moves forward make this a really enjoyable read.
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There tend to be 2 kinds of apocalypse novels: 1) travel across apocalyptic landscape and 2) diary of survival at home. When the English Fall 'falls' (ahem) into the second category.

The community and religious identity of the protagonist makes this one unique from other survival diaries I've read. Jacob's Amish. He and his family live in Pennsylvania in an Amish community. His daughter Sadie foretells the coming climate-driven apocalypse, which also knocks out everything that runs on electricity. The Amish have obvious survival advantages over their 'English' (non-Amish) neighbors. They've already acclimated to the lifestyle the coming days and months require. But they're not ready for the violence of their neighbors, nor will they condone the killing of thieves in the name of 'justice.' 

With so many 'do whatever it takes to survive' apocalypse novels, this one provides a breath of fresh air to the genre. It gives a different way of surviving, a way that embraces the humanity in everyone. Also, the author is Amish, and even though I know very little about their lifestyle, it felt authentic to me as I read. I could tell he knew the culture.

I wonder....will there be a 2nd? I really want to know what happens to Jacob and his family, even though I realize the constraints of a 'found' dairy mean that's very unlikely.

Thanks to Netgalley and Algonquin Books for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

[Posted on Goodreads 07/20/2017]
[Posted on Amazone 07/20/2017]
[Posted about on Book Riot's Peak Over Our Shoulders 07/24/2017]
[Posted on personal blog 08/09/2017]
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Some sort of calamity strikes America, and probably the world, causing most modern conveniences like electricity, phones, vehicles, and generators to abruptly stop working. But this novel isn't a thriller - it's a contemplative look at this disaster from the outside, from the point of view of an Amish man and his community, who have deliberately shunned most of these modern trappings and set themselves apart from the rest of the world. But as food shortages grow, even the Amish discover that they aren't as separate as they had thought. This was a short novel that left me wanting to know more of Jacob's story.
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Do you think if you were stuck in an apocalyptic world, you would not be desperate and hungry enough to kill?

I was really interested in this book because the description just sounded so cool. Do you have to kill to survive? Be selfish? These questions are so important and I am thrilled to see a book dedicated in answering them. As I wasn't disappointed after reading this but I didn't exactly love this book. I liked how realistic some of the scenes were in this book. I can imagine that things would turn out like how it did if disaster like this struck the world. I know where to go now. However, there were so many details in this book such as Jacob's daughter, the Amish community, Jacob's father, the cause of the solar storm, and the effect and the resolution of it. Some of these details were not properly addressed and just made the book confusing and made me not love it. And the ending was so abrupt. I was so numb afterwards.

Though I did love that you can see the before, during and after the solar storm that started this dystopian event. It lets you compare the changes in environment and human behaviour. The happening of the solar storm reminded me of War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells. Their way of explaining was similar as it was calm and sedated and this just made reading this so much better as if it were a quiet drama. It made me hold my breath just waiting to see what will happen next.

The way Williams had written was very sedated but dramatic and I loved it. It was perfect and showed more of Jacob's personality. To see chaos unfolding in this way was amazing and original for me. Usually, when I read books like this, authors would try to insert comedy or skim over the transitioning parts. But not this book, David Williams did an excellent job at moving from before the apocalypse to during to after. Though, it was sometimes slow and unnecessary.

There was this one part that had really scared me that made me stop reading for at least one night. It was horrifying and terrible. This book made me feel so many things. Happy, scared, amazed, angry, sad and grateful.

I love reading books that shows different cultures around the world. I didn't know much Amish people and I like how David Williams portrayed the Amish in this book. I admire them for they are kind, giving, hardworking and only want the best for everybody. Jacob and his community, all they ever did is support themselves and help others. They never once thought of taking more than they needed. Jacob is smart and incredibly kind. He is so understanding and awesome. I liked every character in this book though sometimes I forget who is who because there are quite a lot of characters. Jacob's daughter, Sadie, is probably the 2nd most important character in this book apart from Jacob. She gets seizures, visions and says the most cryptic things. This is one aspect that they had explained more because it was intriguing but there was no deeper answer into this.

This book made me open my eyes to how desperate people can get and how we need to keep calm and not lose our humanity. The only way to get a win-win situation in this world is by working together and sharing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book as it was so meaningful and profound. But I wished that some parts were explained and that the ending was more finished than this. I'd probably rate this book 3.5/5 stars.
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This was an eerie and suspenseful novel with a really dark outlook. I like dark outlooks, so that was fine with me. 

In sum, there is an Amish family living in the US in a future time when there is drastic weather. A solar storm has knocked out all the power, permanently, and no motors and engines will run. Since they are living in a rural commune-like area which is sustainable on its own and they are used to working hard to grow their own food, the family isn't affected as much as people who live in the cities. However, as they watch what is happening as people begin to panic without food in the cities, they begin to realize that they are not safe where they are. In addition, their daughter has premonitions, but I won't give anything away by saying more. 

Ultimately, a good book. I enjoyed it and found it spooky in a good way!
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The concept is so intriguing and I really love a slow book with a focus on characters but I think I was frustrated with this because I misunderstood what this was: I expected this post-apocalyptic fiction with some twists and turns (and there kinda were but nothing felt that exciting). What this was was slow meaningful diary entries from someone on the edge of a post-apocalyptic society, an amish family.

But it raises ripe questions for discussion: if the world was compromised in some way due to some environmental happening, how would we survive when our modern technologies and conveniences didn't work? Would farming communities like the Amish survive the longest?
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A streak of pastoralism runs through a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction—especially novels set well after the collapse. In these bucolic futures, we find a near-empty landscape, peopled with small communities living in the shrinking shadows of our rusting modernity. Farmers ply the land; traders trade; and no one can much fathom the artifacts of our strange technological culture. When the English Fall belongs to this tradition, but comes at it leftways and inside out: the protagonists in a world where modern technology dies in a day are Amish—members of small, insular, religious community that already largely eschews modern technology. They live the pastoral before the cataclysm, and it is only after that their rustic existence is breached.

Jacob, our narrator, is used to being up at night. His daughter Sadie suffers from seizures that leave him sleepless with worry even when they’re in remission, trapped in that helpless anxiety of loving parents. One night, he and Sadie are awake late, and talking quietly, when the world lights up with what look like angels in the heavens. But the bright lights in the midnight sky are aurora, caused by a solar storm strong enough to knock out most modern technology across the face of the earth. Their modern American neighbors—the English, as the Amish term them—have fallen.

Post-apocalyptic fiction gets good mileage running its characters from a technologically coddled softness to the hard realities of subsistence living. Here, we have something stranger: a people learned in the ways of subsistence in small groups, living off the mercurial land, slowly being overrun by their hungry, scared, sometimes brutally survivalist neighbors. In some ways, depicting the sustenance-based community being overrun, the book runs the post-apocalyptic pastoral backward, throwing the peaceful farming community into crisis at the end of the world, instead of building them up as an idyll in an empty world, still existing long after the end of things.


All that said, this rosy view of old-fashioned living is a somewhat antique vision of the time after the end of days, explored in novels published well before the turn of the millennium, a goodly number of them now out of print. In Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin details the lives of the Kesh, who “might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California”; it is a soft, private recollection of a gentle community. When the English Falls fits neatly within this genre paradigm, in a way: it presents us with a portrait of kind, thoughtful folk, but doesn’t needlessly romanticize its members. Not everyone is going to get on, and some people are jerks, but mostly, their society works.

Nowadays, the post-apocalyptic is more often written as something more like an anti-pastoral: consider Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which runs a long, low pan of a ruined and crumbling landscape. Zombie fiction only rarely deals in the simple life of the land, even as it yields up beautiful, awful descriptions of a rotting earth. The human protagonists in a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction must be untethered to survive, not living deep within an interconnected community that values humility, submission to God, and non-violence above all other things. This is where Williams breaks from those rustic pre-millennial visions: When the English Fall takes place in the weeks and months after the cataclysm, not in a now-stable far future: the peaceful pastoral and the brutal end times set against each other.

It takes more than a couple days for Jacob and his community to understand the import of the tech failure precipitated by the solar storm. Early sections of the novel detail Jacob’s day to day chores: collecting with Amish neighbors to mend a roof; sowing the winter broccoli; building chairs for one of the wealthy English; harvesting apples. But the harsh reality of a larger world without electricity, mobility, or connectivity begins to manifest, even for a people who seem uniquely suited to survive such a calamity. Jacob’s English business partner Mike shows up red-faced on a bicycle, to detail the discomfort and instability of his existence since the lights went out. The military comes round for donations of Amish foodstuffs, even while Jacob begins to worry about the community’s stores for the coming winter.

Their non-Amish neighbors begin to take up arms against “looters” and “thieves”—often people starving and desperate. Sometimes the looters and thieves are cruelly violent themselves. As the end times drag on, both the brutality of the violence and its physical closeness to Jacob and his family keep escalating. Jacob (and the reader) can extrapolate into the future.  A member of a people that treasures non-violence as one of its most vital tenets, seeing his neighbors take up arms to protect his community feels like an ethical dodge for Jacob. If others must act with violence to protect me, how meaningful is my embrace of peaceful and compassionate living?

While the books is narrated in Jacob’s kindly and charitable voice, often as he simply details his day-to-day activities and interactions with his family, I read this book with a feeling of rising dread. I’m one of the English, one of the technologically dependent hundreds of millions of people who surround the tiny Amish communities in America. At one point, I set down the book to weed my feeble garden plot—like five tomato plants are going to do me any good when the lights go out and the supply lines are severed. I could feel the chain of events that would send me on a collision course with Jacob, with his gun-wielding English neighbors, with the larger implacable reality of the end of days.

While Jacob ruminates on his culture, his ethical responsibilities, and his simple faith, I could feel the pressing, untold stories of countless English driven by hunger and terror out into the tidy Amish fields, and then into their homes. I could feel the coming violence like a roiling storm on the horizon, one that cause indelible and irrevocable damage to Jacob, and his kith and kin. It felt like watching a slasher film—I sat, screaming ineffectually at the principles: The killer is there! Turn and look! But Jacob would not be Jacob without his fundamental beliefs, and he can see the killer just as clearly as I do. In fact, he sees a different killer altogether—mine is one of the body, and his, one of the spirit.

One of the most beloved texts of the Amish is a 17th Century book called Martyrs Mirror, which details the lives, and deaths, of countless faithful Christians whose practice of nonresistance resulted in their martyrdom. Jacob, at times, reads from this text. He finds strength in several stories, such as one where a fleeing Anabaptist turns back to rescue his pursuer who has fallen through the ice, only to be caught and killed in turn. I am not trying to telegraph an ending for our protagonist; indeed, the ending is more ambiguous, hopeful, and uneasy than that. But Jacob is a man who has considered the idea of sacrifice all of his life, and he understands that sometimes instead of dying for your principles, you must live for them, even if that life is uncomfortable, hard, and unrewarded. Maybe especially if.
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This is a dystopian novel unlike any other, as it takes the point of view of an Amish man named Jacob. The story is told through Jacob's journal entries. This is not your typical survival dystopian story, it's more of seeing the world through the eyes of the Amish community. When the English Fall was such a unique take on a dystopian novel that I found myself stopping mid-read to think about the way that I live my life. This book really made me think and realize that I do not appreciate the simple things in life, such as having a car, internet, or even air conditioning. I think this is a big part of why I loved this book so much. It taught me the lesson to slow down and to appreciate the small things in life. One of my favorite parts of this book was when Jacob focuses on describing the magic of a leaf that looks like it is floating in the air. It's actually just a leaf dangling from a thread of a spider's web. The fact that he could still find magic during the collapse of civilization just made this book such a pleasurable read. The small things in this book were just delightful additions.

If you aren't familiar with the Amish, they are known as being a peaceable community that reside in Pennsylvania. They don't use electricity or drive cars. Being from Pennsylvania myself, I grew up surrounded by the Amish and already had a good idea about how their communities worked. The Amish are known for being very devout in their religion and they live by the word of God. I loved the way this book gave an in-depth view of how the Amish went about their daily lives and their daily customs. Even with being familiar with the Amish community, I still learned a lot about them that I didn't know.

The whole purpose of this book being written in the eyes of an Amish man was to get a different point of view on how the Amish would survive in a dystopian world. In this novel, the Amish were not heavily affected by the solar storm that wiped out all the electricity of the world since the Amish do not rely on electricity to live. As the days went on and things got worse for the English (Amish name for non-Amish people), they started borrowing their food to feed the big cities since the Amish were known as being farmers and making all their own food. Once food started running out, this is when the Amish became affected by the after-effects of the storm. People started leaving the cities and coming across the Amish farms. The Amish are known for being pacifists and when the English came and threatened them with guns, this is when the Amish began to face a dilemma; stick to their peaceable ways or defend what's theirs.

This was all-around a book that led to introspection of oneself and how we, the English, live in a society riddled with technology and take advantage of the life we have. I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone. It's a great eye-opener to see the world through another's eyes. 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and David Williams for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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When the English Fall chronicles the lives of the peaceful farmers in an Amish community in Pennsylvania. When a catastrophic solar storm leads to the collapse of the “English” (the Amish name for any non-Amish people), the community continues its self-sufficient way of life. Meanwhile, the world around them has effectively come to an end. 

Modern life is at a stand-still – with no electricity and no way of trading, the English soon run out of food. In contrast, the Amish have storerooms full of meat and vegetables, as well as their ongoing crops in the field. It proves to be too much of a temptation to the people around them, who become desperate and invade the Amish farms. Instead of trying to work together, the English come with violence that they wreak on the peaceable community.

The story is told through the diary of a farmer named Jacob, who lives on the land with his wife, son and daughter. The daughter has had seizures in the past in which she foresees the fall of the English – where she was once an outcast for this oddity, she is now viewed as a prophet for the Amish community. I thought that the daughter’s role could have been a much stronger part of the story – there were some really good plot elements that were left unexplored. 

The novel begins with the discovery of Jacob’s diary by the military, years after the apocalypse. Again, I thought this aspect of the plot would be developed much further – I kept waiting for the timelines to come together, but the novel ended suddenly and without resolution. When the English Fall has the potential to be an excellent examination of civilization and what is left when it is stripped down to its core – especially when a non-violent community must consider taking up arms to defend itself. Overall, it was just too short and lacking in depth. However, if the author chose to develop this plot further, I think it could be something great.

I received this book from Algonquin Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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New perspective on a world gone topsy turvy, post apocalyptic.
The telling of Jacob captivates the reader, getting through it all, what takes place, and what road he will traverse upon, an empathy grows with the telling.
His writing in his journal has him have a voice to see the world through, come to realize his fate and faith, his spiritual struggle with the terrible world he finds himself in.
The authors lucid prose style delivers the tale into a memorable first person gripping narrative, a must read.

"I was not. Though I could not stay in the Order that my father had taught me, neither was the world for me. The world made me sick. Not with hate. Not sick with hate. Just sick. It was wildness, churning chaos. It upset my soul, making me dizzy like a little boy spinning circles in the field. The spinning is fun at first, but then you cannot stop, because if you stop, you fall and your stomach turns inside out. I haven’t ever liked that. And I like spirit sickness least of all."

"Everyone in Lancaster seems to be doing all right so far. But the world is not just Lancaster. There are larger cities, places where there are no fields and farms nearby, and where there is more violence. Pittsburgh, apparently, is bad. And other farther places, things were beginning to get bad. The biggest cities, like New York and Washington and Baltimore and Los Angeles. Rumors of violence. But just rumors. “Who knows anything anymore,” Isaak said. “It all feels like gossip, like none of it is real.” in the house, mike is sleeping."

"But then there was a patter of shots, and one of the soldiers went down, and the crowd surged forward. Then the soldiers opened fire.” Abram went quiet again. “He told me there were at least a hundred dead. At least. Many of them women and children. And then he said they had heard more stories just like that.”

"And there, in the air beneath the canopy of the oak, I saw a single bright yellow leaf. It was not falling. It hovered, whirling, floating and bobbing and moving. It did not fall. It refused to fall. 
I watched it as it danced, defying the fall, a leaf that would not come to earth. It was magic, this leaf. A soft morning breeze rose up, and the golden leaf lifted upward, arcing back toward the branches that had cast it down. Like a fallen angel, repentant, straining back toward heaven. I knew what I was seeing, even though I could not see it. Attached to the leaf, defying my sight, beyond my human seeing, there was a single silver thread. That cord was there, though I could not see it, strong as steel, light as air. I knew this. It was woven by a spider, and fixed to the leaf, and fixed to the tree. 
That is why I was seeing a leaf that would not fall. I knew this. But it still seemed magical. Just like everything in our world."

“It really is getting worse,” Jon said. “On the ride back, I heard that there was a big firefight between police and National Guard and some armed gangs from Philadelphia. Not like street gangs, these were just armed men who had gathered together to take what they needed. The gangs had moved from looting stores to moving through neighborhoods, taking food from every house, and shooting anyone who wouldn’t give them what they wanted.”

"Yet when I came here, and in a time of testing and prayer Jonas Beiler heard of my spiritual struggle, it was he who told me to set aside that bitterness. Do not let the poison of your spirit keep you from the truth. Do not forget the power of a time of testing. 
And so as I write, every day, I remember. Writing the words helps me remember."

"Here we were, and we prospered. Our hard work and diligence was rewarded by Providence. There was food, there was plenty, and our faith was without trial. It was easy to become prideful, or to become convinced of God’s protection. Yes, we had to be disciplined, and yes, being among our brethren and renouncing the easy path of the English required strength of purpose. But the kind of strength to endure times of trial, and to stand unwilling to turn a hand against those who would harm us? Would starve us? Would destroy our bodies, even as our souls remain intact? That, for a while, has been a trial that we have not had to endure in this country. Now, though, the time has shifted. The world itself has shifted. I must trust in my faith, that it will endure this testing.
Is that not the purpose of faith? Surely it is."

"The news of the morning was that the delivery in Lancaster had not gone well. Again, there were disruptions, and the crowd was bigger, and there was less food. People were hungrier, and women were crying, and men were angry and most were armed. Order was maintained, but everyone was growing more desperate. 
Alongside the roads, the piles of trash were growing, and stories of looting and killing for supplies were everywhere. Many stories were rumors and untrue, but there was some truth to parts of it. Too much truth. 
Word had gotten out that the National Guard had been ordered to shoot looters on sight, and there was now a curfew. No travel after dark, for any reason."

"the three of us arrived, and it was as Jon had said. The farm was very quiet. There the bodies were out in the drive, two large, two so very small. They had fallen together, close to one another, just a heap, like a pile of meat dumped on the road."

"Because we know, now, that as the world of the English fails around us, we are not separate. Yes, we have the Order, and yes, we have our way, but the time when that meant we stood free from the world has passed."

"There are shots now again, bursts here and there, far away, and I cannot sleep. I think of this man in his hunger, shot like a rabbit raiding a garden. For what, Lord? For stealing corn intended for pigs and for cattle, like the hungry prodigal helpless in a strange land."
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