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

All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2008,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2009,
    272 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Book Summary

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 calls home.

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 in years.

Chapter One

Dawn, or its German equivalent, cannot be far off. But here, at the top of the hill, night still clogs the forest. Being sixty-three years old and sleepy, I find it nearly impossible to differentiate now between the stray grapevines, the trees, and the waist-high shrubs that I know surround me. They could all be wild animals.

'Is everyone awake?'

Three days ago I imprisoned six middle-aged women and one pre-pubescent girl in a tent on this hilltop. The time has come to set them free.

'Pray undo the lock,' an anchorite whispers. Then, sensing my hesitation, 'Did thou forget the key?'

There is no key because there is no lock. My hand waits on the zipper. I stand there in my dagged-edged taffeta tunic, my sandaled feet wet from dew. My bald little head. My nose. Somewhere behind me sleeps the great stone Benedictine Abbey St Hildegard, its vineyards cascading down the hill over Eibingen, over Rudesheim, and into the river Rhine.

Zipper down,...

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About the Book

As unusual as its title, All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well by Tod Wodicka is a deeply moving, darkly comic, and unforgettable debut novel that explores the ways in which we destroy those we love, try to hide in the past and memory, and then must lay ourselves bare in order to rebuild our lives. The difficulties of family are explored in brilliantly imaginative detail through the unique voice of Burt Hecker: a sixty-three-year-old medieval re-enactor who, after abandoning the female chant workshop he has led to Germany, sets off on a quest to reunite with his estranged son, Tristan, in Prague.


Reader's Guide

  1. Fathers are missing throughout the novel, and...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews
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.

Library Journal

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.

Publishers Weekly

Burt's cutting wit and intelligence comprise the novel's intellectual center, while his unfettered love for Kitty gives it its massive heart.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Reader Reviews
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 was...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

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 ...

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