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  1. Heaven’s Ditch is a terrific book. Combining the real adventure, excitement, and hard work in the digging of the Erie Canal with an excellent exposition of the myriad religious changes simultaneously taking place is a tour de force. It is as exciting to read as good novel and, yet, it relates a fundamental engineering accomplishment to ‘real time’ America. And all the more, it is still real. Kelly’s description of events in the 1830s clearly presage our current socio-political problems.

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  2. A fascinating recounting of the building of the Erie Canal, it’s impact on America and all the colorful characters who shaped this event and influenced the country’s changing cultural dynamics during this amazing period! Thoroughly researched and highly entertaining, “Heaven’s Ditch” gives a bird’s eye view of what life was like along the Erie Canal and how the Second Great Revival marched alongside this incredible engineering feat. Jack Kelly did a great job providing insight into the clash of culture and religion during a tumultuous time in America’s history. As the country inched closer to civil war, technological improvements and a theological revolution played a significant role in establishing the North as a commercial dynamo and tinder bed for a future abolitionist firestorm. I thoroughly enjoyed “Heaven’s Ditch” and learned a lot about this incredible era, including the development of new religious sects in America and the birth of modern political parties. A good – no, a great – read and entertainingly educational!

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  3. Reading Heaven’s Ditch I was possessed by a weird sense of deja vu. Writing about the fervid evangelicals and sundry charlatans who held sway over many in upstate/central NY in the early 19th century, Kelly notes that “they knew the elements of ballyhoo. Spectacle never fails. Hyperbole pays. … Controversy creates newspaper stories. If caught out, up the ante. Welcome attacks. Offer documentation, however dubious. Give the people exactly what they want: fantasy, novelty, the unusual, the miraculous.” Give or take the bit about documentation, it all seems disconcertingly familiar in 2016.

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