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The Fifth Sacred Thing (Maya Greenwood #1)

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,195 Ratings  ·  393 Reviews
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.
Paperback, 698 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Bantam (first published 1993)
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The Stand by Stephen KingThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellWorld War Z by Max Brooks
Best Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
104th out of 862 books — 2,853 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
250th out of 2,622 books — 20,737 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 07, 2015 Melody rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dystopia, favorites
11/2015 I live in the sweetness of this book, whether I am reading it or not. There are times when I need this book the way I need air. This has been one of those times. I slipped into it the way Madrone slipped into Sara's pool, unable to resist, entirely yielding myself to the narrative. It's prose that speaks to me on the deepest level, and oh, how glad I was to re-immerse myself.

11/2012 I find more to love each time I come back to this book, this time being no exception. I come to this book
Dec 16, 2010 Eli rated it liked it
Good Reclaiming Witch that I am, I wanted to l-o-v-e this book. But it has issues.
*It honors and accepts every credal system except atheism, which is portrayed as antiquated and unenlightened.
*It denigrates monofidelity and single-sex orientation (homo as well as hetero).
*Secondary and tertiary characters often seem less people than tickmarks on Starhawk's gender/class/ethnicity/sexuality matrix.
*Ultimately, it embraces the either/or, us/them duality it claims to reject.
*Though the main characte
Aug 03, 2007 Sapote3 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: crazed idealists
So I had a lot of politics in high school, and I also lived in Wiccantown, The Bible Belt, U.S.A. Therefore, this book resonated rather a lot with me. I still love utopias, and this book is very much a utopia: an idealistic nowhere, but a nowhere that's worth talking about.

Still, I haven't been able to make myself reread this, now that I'm no longer fifteen and no longer believe that 1) magic is an appropriately thorough way to deal with biological warfare 2) polyamorous pansexuality always wor
This book has some good passages about nonviolent resistance and about building a community. If it could have set up those issues without depending on New Age-y "science" (e.g., manipulating ch'i, using intelligent crystals for computers that are programmed through advanced visualization techniques, acupuncture, using the brain's natural electronic field to manipulate electronic devices) and magic (e.g., communicating with the dead, communicating with bees, vision quests), it might have been goo ...more
Apr 18, 2007 Tanuja rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book inspired a major paradigm shift for me. Shortly after reading it, I enrolled in acupuncture school, and life has not been the same, will never be the same. I have to reread this book every so often for its crucial reminder: that nonviolence can work and must work and will work to change the world...but we also have to work...we need to heal ourselves and others. I highly recommend this book.
Dec 01, 2008 Caty rated it did not like it
Couldn't stand it, couldn't finish it. And I usually love radical utopias+ conservative dystopias--the 2 paired together? Whhooooo! But the style was turgid and thick and the sentimentality oozed off the page. Maybe my aesthetic problems with paganism helped, too. The description of the prison and their escape from it was compelling, but that's about it.
Mar 08, 2011 Rico rated it it was amazing
Where to start? This book is deeply affecting and touched on so many of my passions, it is difficult to know where to start.

First, it is another entry in the large (and still growing) list of what my friend Hobo Lee used to call Northern California Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Do we in Northern California have a cataclysm fetish? Or do we here in this beautiful and fragile place just wisely wish for an end to this society as we know it before it kills us all?

In any case, Starhawk has taken all th
Mar 07, 2009 Nomy rated it really liked it
this book kind of blew me away. i finished it a couple months ago and i keep meaning to write my review of it. what i really loved about this book was the way she describes the characters' internal processes, i felt like i really knew what they were feeling, i could feel it too and travel with them in their minds. there were parts of the book that were kind of too scary for me, i felt it too much, took it on in my body, which is not good for me. i had so many things to say about it when i read i ...more
Dec 25, 2007 Cathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed this book (but not the sleep it cost me when I stayed up too-late reading it) -- I've heard of Starhawk, and this makes me curious to read more of her stuff. It's good to get a dose of utopia set in SF, and the writing is compelling. Her characters are complex as are the ways she's envisioned society (and threats to it), and I appreciate the way she wrestles with questions of non-violence vs armed rebellion, though at times the plot asked me to make jumps that didn't actually flow.
Aug 14, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
I am reading this book for the third time. I identify with the main character, even though I thought she was a brat the first time through....; )

Look--if you care about the Earth or your freedoms when it comes to clean water and pure food, then read this book. It's a quick read because you won't be able to put it down. The characters are likable, their relationships refreshing.

It's the only fiction piece (as far as I know) by Starhawk. Research her work.
Tammy Eaton
Mar 05, 2008 Tammy Eaton rated it it was amazing
My first introduction to "ecofeminism." Extremely close to the end of the book so I will reserve judgement on the ending, but I am extremely impressed with Starhawk's ability to draw me into her world and keep me there. I felt attached to the characters and experienced so many emotions along with them. The description of the grandmother ripping the safety latches off her kitchen cabinets had me crying... it is so true that no matter what we do to protect them, they grow up and insist on doing da ...more
Feb 18, 2009 *rob* rated it liked it
this is a favorite book of a lot of friends and acquaintances, so i think my expectations were high. the writing is pretty flat, which i was actually relieved to discover because it's a big book and so i gave myself permission to read quicker than i normally like to. also, it reeks of liberal white racism with the way starhawk idealizes inclusiveness, melting-pots, and tokenization in this multi-cultural post-apocalyptic utopia. as i've mentioned this to people, someone said that since writing i ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it
This utopian "new age" vision of San Francisco in the not-so-distant future, written in the early mid 90's by STARHAWK, could have been a series of deep eye-rolls that permanently damaged my vision; But the novel was well written and the narrative enticing enough to keep me invested.
I actually found myself ready to read this type of idealistic "social-science' fiction if you will...
Walking around the city now, I can actually see the San francisco described in these pages in my minds eye and thin
Jul 24, 2013 Jackson rated it really liked it
For me, this book wasnt a 'page-turner' but I read it avidly none-the-less. What brought me back to the bookmarked page day after day was the profound ideas inter weaved throughout the book. This book heralds not only spirituality, environmentalism and mythological symbolism but also social change, civil disobedience and revolution. For this reason, this book was inherently different, and exactly my cuppa-tea. It was my scholarly and spiritual minds transformed into fiction.
The characterisation
Briana Nervig
Feb 17, 2008 Briana Nervig rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dystopia lovers, people who love to frequently read about group sex
So far quite interesting. Written by an eco-feminist, wiccan/pagan activist so, of course, there are alot of politics involved. This is her first fictional novel. (Sounds like your type of book, doesn't it, Aaron? hahaha)

Centered in California, mid-21st century. Regarding society's lack of consciousness and appreciation of the "Mother Earth's" resources, and the "Four Sacred Things": Water, Fire, Earth, Air. The once lush California landscape has been reduced to hard, unfruitful land from fires
Another one of my top five favorite books...The Fifth Sacred Thing skillfully addresses issues of oppression and social justice in a rich, complex narrative that never fails to leave me hopeful and invigorated by the end. One of this book's main triumphs is that Starhawk is able to present characters' differences--in race, class, gender, sexuality, ability--without seeming disingenuous. The characters and conflicts are engaging and utterly believable--this book never slips too far into fantastic ...more
Apr 17, 2008 Lori rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of peace and goodness
Ever thought about tearing up the concrete and turning our streets into living gardens?
How about having seven old women running things by dreaming answers from a retreat up on the hill by Stow Lake (at 8th ave in GG Park)?
How about the prospect of running out of a little thing called water? Or having to blow up the bridges to stop the south from invading us for our water?
All these things happen and SO MUCH MORE in this thrilling tale of the rebirth of San Francisco, in an apocalyptic world of
Jan 01, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing
Not for the faint of heart - this is a beautiful, haunting, challenging novel about a utopia surrounded and threatened by authoritarian regimes. Written 20 years ago, some of it seems eerily prophetic - water shortages, soil depletion, global warming, monopoly/power of drug companies, government run by hypocritical "purists," assaults on women's rights. However, many of the descriptions of the utopian enclave are something to strive for - where all people are honored along with the elements whic ...more
Jan 30, 2010 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
I have been meaning to read this book for years. In September of 2009 I went on a personal sabbatical to Big Sur, California. I only brought a select number of books with me -- three actually. The first one on my list was this book by Starhawk. I had read the preface a month or two before I left on my sabbatical and quickly put it down. The preface to this book stunned me with its clarity, power, and heart. So, while at Tassajara Zen Center, I poured through this book whenever I got a chance. It ...more
Gelsey Goldenberg
Aug 20, 2009 Gelsey Goldenberg rated it it was amazing
This is by far one of my favorite books of all time. It's full of magic and witchcraft and healing. When I first read this book, I had a few amazing experiences with bees. I felt closer to nature, to the wonder of our planet to the cycles and seasons we experience within ourselves and the world around us. I love that it takes place in California, and the Bay Area which has been my life long home. I love that this book identifies a new way of being, a new way to use the law of attraction to take ...more
Aug 04, 2015 Elyria rated it it was amazing
One of the most in-depth explorations I've ever come across that delves into the fate of non-violent societies. Cooperation and resistance, magic and the deep bonds of love, spirits of the dead and the indomitable spirits of the living - it's a book that will draw you in and break your heart.
Feb 02, 2008 Nitya rated it really liked it
Maybe not the best writing, but this book made me think long and hard about planetary resources, our current squandering of them, and how things might be if we continue on. it takes place in 2050, and resources are few. Water is scarce and precious, oil even scarcer. In San Francisco, the people have learned how to survive, thrive, even, by cooperative community.But of course, there are greedy bastards trying to control and hoard the resources at the deprivation of everyone else. That we, the pe ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Abilouise rated it really liked it
I seriously loved this book, it's one of the books that I've submerged in the whole time I was reading it, and I was sad when it was over. I enjoyed this in a similar way to the way that I enjoyed Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time and He, She, It. These books gives me clues and fantasies about the world I'd like to live in, how people could treat each other and the world, what peace might be like. I loved the scope of this, and I enjoyed the plot. I wish that I could find more things that ...more
Nataly Dybens
Sep 17, 2013 Nataly Dybens rated it it was amazing
This book is an awesome fantasy that ties in things I used to be interested in that i forgot.. like magic and astral planes. Combines magic, and the spiritual, including down to earth things and ways of life such as agriculture and the four sacred things [fire, earth, air, and water] and i don't think im giving anything away by saying that the fifth sacred thing is spirit. This book is about a peaceful accepting community trying to preserve their way of life from a very realistic and evil oppres ...more
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
May 26, 2015 Allan Dyen-Shapiro rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of dystopian novels. Utopian ones are more rare, as the old idea of conceiving of a utopia as a way of bringing it about seems quixotic to the modern. But second-wave feminism produced one science fiction novel that worked well for me--Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. Starhawk writes The Fifth Sacred Thing two decades later, in th 1990s. But, she cops Piercy's technique for connecting with the modern reader: contrasting a dystopia with a utopia and setting some parts of ...more
George Freeman
Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain all life - earth, air, fire, and water - are valued unconditionally. Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are property of their husbands or the state, and children ar ...more
Ray Riddle
May 11, 2014 Ray Riddle rated it really liked it
Starhawk has written a very impressive book with her first fiction novel. It's quite long and filled with many interesting characters. The city that is the main setting, or home to the main characters that are either imprisoned in the south or travel there to assist, is San Francisco in 2048. A revolution has taken place and the city has broken away from the rest of the world, creating what some call a utopia and others label it as a form of communism that works. Whichever it is, Starhawk has t ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Ashley rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2014 Veganeslesezeichen rated it it was ok
Shelves: abgebrochen
Ich hatte das Buch schon lange auf meiner Wunschliste und bin nun dieses Jahr dazu gekommen es mir in der Bibliothek auszuleihen - zum Glück.
An sich klang der Inhalt vielversprechend, es geht um zwei verschiedene Welten. Die eine ist das Ideal, wo es keinen Hunger, Armut und Toleranz herrscht während in der Zweiten das totale Gegenteil vorzufinden ist. Und diese beiden Welten treffen in Kalifornien im 21. Jahrhundert zusammen, und der Ausgang dieses Konflikts hängt von einer kleinen Gruppe von M
Jun 04, 2013 Hanna rated it it was ok
I'd give this book 2.5 stars. I was really uncomfortable with the author's special focus on penetrative sex (she really seemed to like having long discriptions of it) even to the extent that she felt like she needed to describe penetrative intercourse of bees (blagh!). I also didn't like the focus on 'group sex'. The book was interesting most of the time but wasn't compelling or very thought provoking.
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Starhawk (born Miriam Simos) is an American writer, anarchist activist, and self-described witch. She is well known as a theorist of Paganism, and is one of the foremost popular voices of ecofeminism. She is a columnist for both and On Faith (the Newsweek online forum on religion).

Starhawk currently lives in San Francisco, where she works with Reclaiming, a tradition of Witchcraft th
More about Starhawk...

Other Books in the Series

Maya Greenwood (2 books)
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“That is exactly what nobody seems to grasp about this karma business. It’s not a simple matter of cause and effect, reward and punishment. It’s a question of what’s available. You see, as long as life for the majority of souls on this planet is just a long round of starvation, misery, torture, and early death—and believe me, outside this fortunate watershed that is an apt description of the state of affairs—as long as only a few live in comfort while the masses scrape along in want, then all us returning souls have to take our fair share of shifts among the hungry. You think this life you’ve lived was tough? Let me tell you, it was just R and R between the ones where you never get a solid meal two days running or you die before your first birthday from drinking bad water.” 0 likes
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