All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well: Summary and book reviews of All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well by Tod Wodicka
All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well
by Tod Wodicka
Hardcover: Feb 2008,
Paperback: Jan 2009,
Meet Burt Hecker: a mead-drinking, tunic-wearing medieval re-enactor from
upstate New York. He prefers oat gruel to French fries because potatoes were
unavailable in Europe before 1200 AD; and, at war with the modern world, he
enjoys hosting large-scale re-enactments at the Victorian bed and breakfast he
But Burt has some serious problems. After an incident involving the New York
State police and an illegally borrowed car, Burt is forced to join a local music
therapy workshop to manage his anger. He gallantly accompanies the group to
Germany for a festival celebrating the music of the visionary saint Hildegard
von Bingen--but he has no plan to return home. His real destination is Prague:
he must find his estranged son Tristan, who, he believes, has lost his way in
the Bohemian city.
As we move between past and present, the tragic details of Burt's life are
gradually revealed: the recent death of his beloved wife; the circumstances that
separate him from his children; his complicated relationship with his
mother-in-law. And we begin to understand, with heart-wrenching clarity, Burt's
eccentric and poignant devotion to a time other than one's own.
Wildly inventive and mesmerizing, Tod Wodicka's debut is a modern-day Arthurian
quest that introduces one of the most winning oddball characters to come along
Despite light moments and clever demonstrations of culture clash, Wodicka's novel is not a light read. His themes are weighty, his research is thorough and his characters are burdened by their personal and familial histories. Readers may guess that the struggles described in the book's pages are a reflection of its author. Wodicka admits to creating Burt Hecker at least partially out of the need to purge himself of similar tendencies before the birth of his own child. Though Wodicka himself is not a historical re-enactor, he also acknowledges amassing an overwhelming amount of research in preparation for the novel, much if which he never included in the actual text. Only an extremely talented writer could make a success of the mixture of plot, characters and subject matter in All Shall Be Well. Wodicka's story is a rare and noteworthy one, a cautionary tale rooted in a singular, yet familiarly dysfunctional, family. (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
The New Yorker
The climax occurs in a heartbreaking, hilarious flashback that dramatizes Burt’s need to escape into the past, as his charismatic wife is dying and a well-meaning neighbor cuts off his supply of home-brewed mead.
Entertainment Weekly - Sean Howe
Even if Burt can't transcend time, Tod Wodicka's novel, All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well can.
New York Times - Janet Maslin
But Mr. Wodicka succeeds in keeping this story bittersweet and unpredictable. He is not in the business of confecting happy endings; he is more drawn to Pyrrhic victories. The book’s structural need to send Burt on a voyage of self-discovery does not require the light of undue sunshine. And Burt, as a man whose visit to a present-day Central European nightclub reminds him of Hieronymus Bosch and St. Vitus' dance, is in no danger of succumbing to unwarranted optimism. The benediction of the title is as guardedly encouraging as this book gets.
This dysfunctional family will bring the reader to tears, from frustration as much as from sorrow; however well crafted, the story line won't satisfy anyone looking for answers.
Burt's cutting wit and intelligence comprise the novel's intellectual center, while his unfettered love for Kitty gives it its massive heart.
Middle-American values, late middle age and the Middle Ages collide engagingly in this anything but middling debut novel from Wodicka ... The past is a blast in this terrific novel.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kim Disappointing I really wanted to like this book for a variety of reasons. From the jacket it sounded like it would be exactly up my reading alley. Unfortunately, the book did not live up to my hopes & expectations. I think the biggest problem I had with it... Read More
Hildegard von Bingen
Hildegard von Bingen
(1098-1179), whose writings and music are integral to the novel, was trained by an
anchoress named Jutta and, in the book, is one herself. An anchoress is a female hermit a woman who,
for religious reasons, voluntary shuts herself off from the world. Although
information on Hildegard confirms that she chose to emulate Jutta throughout her
life, it is not clear that she was an anchoress herself. In fact,
considering her achievements include founding two convents in what is now
Germany it seems unlikely she was. What she most certainly was though is a
woman of deep conviction and multiple talents - a
writer, composer, visionary and mystic. Although not a canonized saint within the
she is often referred to unofficially as a saint.
More about Hildegard.
Julian of Norwich
The title of the book is taken from the writings of another
anchoress, Julian of Norwich, author of Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.
Though she is...
"This is a grand comic opera starring a meditative cockroach scuttling through the corridors of power at the fulcrum of the 20th century. An impressive debut, notable for a generous sense of fun."
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