Cover image for When the English fall : a novel
When the English fall : a novel
First edition.
Physical Description:
242 pages ; 22 cm
Seen through the diary of Jacob, an Amish farmer trying to protect his family and his way of life, the book examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos when an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath of a catastrophic solar storm and the subsequent collapse of modern civilization.

Following a catastrophic solar storm and the subsequent collapse of modern civilization, the Englishers in the cities begin to invade the nearby Amish farms. Jacob's Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the violence, but defense is hindered by their beliefs. In protecting his family, will Jacob defy his beliefs and take up arms? His diary details his conflicts, both physical and internal.


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A riveting and unexpected novel that questions whether a peaceful and non- violent community can survive when civilization falls apart.

Again, all are asleep, but I am not. I need sleep, but though I read and I pray, I feel too awake. My mind paces the floor.

There are shots now and 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 cattle, like the hungry prodigal helpless in a strange land.

I can hear his voice.

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community is caught up in the devastating aftermath. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) in the cities become increasingly desperate, they begin to invade nearby farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the gentle communities.

Written as the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob who tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos. Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they do, can they survive?

David Williams's debut novel is a thoroughly engrossing look into the closed world of the Amish, as well as a thought-provoking examination of how we live today and what remains if the center cannot hold.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Williams's satisfying postapocalyptic novel shows the complex interlacing of Amish and "English" (non-Amish) life. Jacob, an Amish father, lives in a small Pennsylvania district with his wife and two teen children. His daughter, Sadie, has preternatural abilities to foresee the future, a curious note in an otherwise very realistic story. In a journal, Jacob recounts the immediate effects of a massive solar storm that wipes out all electronics. Over two and a half months, the community is called to provide for the cities that were less prepared for the loss of modern life, and increasingly desperate outsiders begin to threaten them, driven to violence by need. This new world tests the Amish injunction to peacefully sacrifice. The diary format means the scientific details of the storm's effects are vague and the most horrifying events are only rumored; this increases tension and keeps the narrative from becoming as dehumanizing or shockingly violent as other tales of the end of the world. The unique spin draws readers into an alarmingly plausible story of contemporary civilization's demise. Agent: Kathleen Davis Niendorff, Kathleen Davis Niendorff Literary. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

The title of Williams' first novel may conjure thoughts of England and WWII, but this book is about a different sort of invasion. In the Pennsylvania countryside, Sadie, a young Amish girl, suffers spells and visions that prefigure a solar storm. The storm interferes with electrical connections and effectively stalls society overnight. Planes fall out of the sky, and cities burn. The Amish, meanwhile, go about their normal fall routines, staying busy harvesting and preparing for winter. News of what is happening to the English reaches them, and they offer assistance, but it soon becomes clear that the need is too great. Desperate English begin ransacking farms and killing neighbors, leaving the Amish to consider their fate. Told via Sadie's father Jacob's diary, in the quiet, simple prose of a quiet, pious man, this is an intriguing take on the dystopian novel: an army memo on the book's first page makes clear that this and Jacob's other diaries, found long after the event, are vital historical documents.--Curbow, Joan Copyright 2017 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

NOTES ON A FOREIGN COUNTRY: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, by Suzy Hansen. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) In this remarkably revealing book, Hansen wrestles bravely with her country's violent role in the world and the ways America has failed to "interrogate" itself. WARNER BROS: The Making of an American Movie Studio, by David Thomson. (Yale University, $25.) Thomson's history details the development of a brash studio that gave us gangsters, dames, gunfire, wisecracks, a wry, hard-boiled tone and the much-beloved wartime Oscar winner, "Casablanca." WHEN THE ENGLISH FALL, by David Williams. (Algonquin, $24.95.) This oddity of a novel examines how the utopian world of the Amish grapples with disaster in the form of a global power outage brought on by a solar storm. Can a community that holds itself apart survive the rest of society's collapse? OUT IN THE OPEN, by Jesús Carrasco. (Riverhead, $26.) This bleak and beautiful debut novel recounts a few days in the life of a boy fleeing his tormentors in an unforgiving, dystopian landscape of unrelenting harshness. Faced with horrible suffering, Carrasco asks, will we dispense grace or cruelty? MADE FOR LOVE, by Alissá Nutting. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99.) This futuristic novel about a woman with a chip in her brain races along like an antic thriller and allows the author to offer deft observations on love, sex, intention, childhood and gadgets. THE WOMAN WHO HAD TWO NAVELS AND TALES OF THE TROPICAL GOTHIC, by Nick Joaquin. (Penguin, paper, $18.) Joaquin (1917-2004) is considered one of the Philippines' greatest writers, and there is a constant duality in the works collected here: war and resistance, the hopeful and the tragic, the desperate and the despot. GLASS HOUSES, by Louise Penny. (Minotaur, $28.99.) In the latest Three Pines mystery, Chief Inspector Gamache combats modern Canadian drug smugglers by delving into the Spanish past. SARGENT'S WOMEN: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, by Donna M. Lucey. (Norton, $29.95.) The glittering world of the late-19th-century 1 percent is revealed through the back stories of society women who posed for portraits by John Singer Sargent. GRACE, by Paul Lynch. (Little, Brown, $26.) The Irish writer's third novel asks timeless questions about suffering and survival through the story of two children expelled from their impoverished home in the midst of the Great Famine. When you're starving, Lynch seems to be asking, are you truly alive? The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Kirkus Review

When the going gets tough, the Amish get going.Williams' (The Strawberry Church, 2016, etc.) novel is the lyrical and weirdly believable diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob, documenting the world as seen from his Pennsylvania farm after climate change hits hard and some sort of atmospheric event knocks out the power grid everywhere. The English of the title are what the Amish call everyone outside their order; during a bizarre solar storm, their planes fall from the sky. Then their refrigerators, computers, lights, generators, phones, and everything else stop working. The English are in big trouble. But who knows how to get by without electricity and gasoline? Who has cellars full of preserves and drying rooms full of jerky? The Amish, that's who. The families of Jacob's community willingly fill National Guard vehicles with food every week to share with their neighbors in Lancaster, but as people in the cities begin to starve, the situation turns chaotic and violent. Until this catastrophe kicked in, Jacob's main worry was his daughter Sadie, 14, who has a serious seizure disorder but is renowned for her predictions and clairvoyance. Those visions will come in handy now. He also has an interesting and touching relationship with an English guy named Mike, the distributor who sells his handmade chairs. Mike's original problemscustody battle, unhappy kids, pregnant girlfriendare dwarfed by what he faces after the collapse, and Jacob's comment about him proves prophetic: "The sorrows are planted, and they grow strong in the earth of his life, and they rise up, and there is harvest." A standout among post-apocalyptic novels, as simply and perfectly crafted as an Amish quilt. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

DEBUT When a solar storm destroys anything electronic, Jacob, his family, and his Amish community are, at first, unaffected. However, as more news trickles out about the ever-increasing desperation of the English (whom the Amish term non-Amish) as modern civilization collapses, two worlds are set to collide. When this collision culminates in increased violence, how will one society survive? This postapocalyptic tale is narrated as a series of diary entries from the point of view of Jacob, an Amish farmer. This format is different in that it allows most of the action associated with such novels to take place offstage, thereby heightening the tension when things come to a head. In addition, this perspective provides more introspective focus, allowing the author to expound on philosophical, and indeed theological, crossroads that are likely to appear if something like this were to happen. -VERDICT Making his fiction debut, -Williams (The Strawberry Church) has written a quiet, ideas-focused dystopian novel that will stay with readers long after they have turned the final page. [A July -LibraryReads Pick.]-Laura Hiatt, Fort Collins, CO © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



September 6   Hannah tells me it was not so good with Sadie today, not good at all. She did not sleep last night, that I know. And she was so distressed today, Hannah says. There were no seizures, but she is so unhappy.   She broods, and will only sleep, or talk in strange circles, as she has since it got worse.   But now it is only one thing she can seem to think about. She talks about the lights, and about the darkness. The skies are bright with angel wings, she will shout, suddenly. The English fall! The English fall! Again and again she says this. The skies filled with angel wings, about the English, and about the fall. We give her the medicine, and it quiets her, but the quiet passes more quickly.   I confess I am troubled, and I am praying much over it.   Sadie was always different. Before the doctors told us there was something wrong, before the seizures, she was different. She was born with a caul, which means nothing. I have seen calves born with cauls, and there is no magic I can see in them. They get eaten, just like all of the other calves. Their jerky tastes no different from regular jerky. But sometimes the old women still talk, Hannah tells me.   The angel's touch, some said she had. And the folk still remember what she said about Bishop Beiler, before even the first signs of the cancer. And about the Hostetler girl. And about that calf. It was strange, and Bishop Schrock had many talks with me about the whisperings that should not be part of the order.   "There is no Christ in this," he said. "This seems the Devil's work," he said.   I nodded, but told him she was a good girl, because she was, even if she did say strange things. I felt anger, too, for Bishop Schrock can be a hard man. Of the bishops in this district, his heart turns most quickly to discipline. But prayer and more prayer returned my heart to the grace of Christ.   And now she moans in the night, and I hear her whisper. Every night, every night for a month, as I read back.   And every night, it is the same thing.   The angel wings, and the sky, and the English. And the fall.   Though she is my little girl, barely more than a child, the hairs rise on my arms as I write this. It is just a sickness, I say to my soul. Just a sickness of the mind.   But I do not believe myself when I say it. I cannot but worry that something bad will happen.   September 16   This early morning, after the milking, Jacob and I slaughtered a pig, the big one. Much of the morning was cutting and preparing, and setting the meat into the freezer.   There will be more, but it was the whole work of our morning. It took longer than anticipated, and our breakfast was no longer warm, but Hannah was forgiving, even as she chided us.   After breakfast, we finished building the last of the order. Mike will be pleased. I sent Jacob to the community phone, so that we could tell Mike.   Hannah prepared simple food, slaw and some meat pies, and Sadie helped, as the Fishers were to come in the late afternoon. Joseph and Rachel and their five, plus Rachel pregnant again, they have been blessed and fruitful. And they are still not old. There will be more children, a larger family.   Their oldest, also Rachel, is fourteen just like our Sadie, then Fritz and Hosheah, then Mariam, then Micah.   It was a lively afternoon. The Fishers came in their wagon and a buggy, and Jacob was at once off with the boys to play. Sadie was calm, and she and Rachel went to talking and walking for a while, as Hannah and the older Rachel rested with lemonade before cooking for the evening.   Joseph and I sat, and we talked. He was worried about the Johansons, who operate the 375 acres just to the south of his own. They had always had problems, and always been the sort of family that struggles, even in the good times when the harvest was good and the money was plentiful. Even the best blessings of Providence cannot turn a soul from sorrow if it has set itself down that path.   But with the terrible weather, and the power outages, and the trouble, they were suffering. The hot and dry summer stunted their corn, and all they grew was corn. When the fierce rains began again, their fields were much damaged. Some rains, they can handle, but two or three inches an hour?   Joseph shook his head as he spoke. The Johansons had seen almost no yield this year. The herbicide-treated soil had no quackgrass, nothing to hold it, and the slight incline of much of that property meant that much corn and soil were washed away. I had seen it, the washes cutting across what had been good earth.   The Johansons also had several chicken coops, long flat structures with hens by the tens of thousands, all packed into crates. That had been a good cash yield, from one of the big companies that puts chicken into the stores in the cities. But then the power failed midsummer, not one of the storm outages, but when one power company wouldn't provide to another. The fans failed, and the coops became ovens. Most of the hens died.   Mr. Johanson was beside himself, deep in debt to the bank, and the loans and loan guarantees and payments from the government that used to tide English farmers over no longer came through. Something about China, and austerity measures. Mike has told me about these things, too.   Joseph was worried, because his neighbor had taken to drinking more and more. Two nights before, there had been angry shouting in the distance. It was just drunkenness and rage, as he stumbled through the fields shouting with a bottle in his hand, cursing uselessly at his own fields, blasting the sun-blasted earth with his hate. The police came, called by another neighbor. Very sad thing, we both thought.   So we prayed together for his neighbor, for the family. And then we ate, and gave thanks. It was good, to be together. A blessing.   I WAS LOOKING OUT ACROSS our little farm, in the halfdarkness of the night, and giving thanks for the blessing we had been given, when she was suddenly by my side without my knowing it. Like a wraith, she moves sometimes, my Sadie.   I asked her how she had enjoyed her time with Rachel, and she smiled and said it was good to see her.   She looked at the night sky, dimming at the cool of day. She said that the angels were coming soon. The sky will be filled with their wings. She was not upset, as she had been before. There was no seizure. She was very calm. But she was still saying it.   "We will be all right, when they come," she said. "But it will not be easy, Dadi."   And then she went inside. "It's late, Dadi," she called to me. "Come in."   September 22   And on the third night, the angels came and filled the heavens.   It began in early evening, as I watched, sitting with Sadie again, just as she had asked.   It was just darking, the last colors of the sun vanishing, the first stars showing, the light of the town brightening. It had been a beautiful sunset.   And then they came. A flicker here, and a flicker there, color danced in the sky. Then sheets of it, brighter and brighter, dancing wild sheets cast across the skies, beautiful purples and blues and pinks.   The sky became full of them, dancing, waving, and pulsing. They would fade a little, and strengthen, and then grow stronger and stronger.   So beautiful. But terrible. What was this? Angels? It was not as I would have thought. So bright and silent. I do not know. I do not yet know.   Hannah came, and Jacob, and we watched together, as the wings of angels lit the skies, and the earth glowed under the warm light. Jacob laughed and pointed and jumped around at the joy of it.   Then it grew so bright that it was brighter than midnight under a full moon, bright enough to see my hand, to see the house. Angel wings dipped, radiant with color, and touched the earth. There was a feeling of strangeness in the air, I do not know what it was, but the hairs on my arm rose. From fear, perhaps, because it was strange, but also because the air seemed sharp with . . . something. I do not know. But the smell changed.   "Dadi, it's so bright, what is that smell?" asked Jacob, suddenly stilled, his voice filled with awe and alarm. Hannah pulled in close, but Sadie stood separate, looking up, rocking back and forth a little.   It went on, radiant and terrible and beautiful. We stood silent.   And then Jacob said, "Dadi, look, there are no lights in the town now," he said, "and there are no lights on the road."   It was true. And he was excited and frightened, and looking everywhere and talking, and then he pointed up.   "Look at the plane," he called out, and there it was, an airplane, a big one. It was not where the planes normally fly, high and moving north or south. The silhouette was low and large. There were no lights on it, or in it, just the beautiful light dancing on and behind it.   It was sideways. It was coming down.   I could see both wings, bent back dark like a broken cross, and it was floating downward, downward, very slow. It was very wrong. I began to pray.   The plane moved down, southward, like a dark, windblown leaf against the color-splashed sky. We lost it to view behind the trees.   And then there was a faint flash, and a few seconds later, a crump like a short peal of thunder.   "Oh blessed Jesus, all those people," said Hannah, and she began to pray softly and in earnest, her whispered prayers melding with mine.   Still, the skies danced, so bright, so silent.   And a few seconds later, another flash, to the north. And a minute later, another to the southwest.   Sadie turned to us, and her eyes were huge and wet with tears.   "The English fall," she said.   And then she went inside, away from the light that filled the sky over the darkened earth. Excerpted from When the English Fall: A Novel by David Williams All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.