counter create hit Heat & Light - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Heat & Light

Availability: Ready to download

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers, in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its hearta bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families. Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers, in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its heart—a bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families. Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas. To drill or not to drill? Prison guard Rich Devlin leases his mineral rights to finance his dream of farming. He doesn’t count on the truck traffic and nonstop noise, his brother’s skepticism or the paranoia of his wife, Shelby, who insists the water smells strange and is poisoning their frail daughter. Meanwhile his neighbors, organic dairy farmers Mack and Rena, hold out against the drilling—until a passionate environmental activist disrupts their lives. Told through a cast of characters whose lives are increasingly bound by the opposing interests that underpin the national debate, Heat & Light depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Soaring, ambitious, it zooms from drill rig to shareholders’ meeting to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor to the ruined landscape of the “strippins,” haunting reminders of Pennsylvania’s past energy booms. This is a dispatch from a forgotten America—a work of searing moral clarity from one of the finest writers of her generation, a courageous and necessary book.


Compare
Ads Banner

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers, in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its hearta bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families. Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers, in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its heart—a bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families. Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas. To drill or not to drill? Prison guard Rich Devlin leases his mineral rights to finance his dream of farming. He doesn’t count on the truck traffic and nonstop noise, his brother’s skepticism or the paranoia of his wife, Shelby, who insists the water smells strange and is poisoning their frail daughter. Meanwhile his neighbors, organic dairy farmers Mack and Rena, hold out against the drilling—until a passionate environmental activist disrupts their lives. Told through a cast of characters whose lives are increasingly bound by the opposing interests that underpin the national debate, Heat & Light depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Soaring, ambitious, it zooms from drill rig to shareholders’ meeting to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor to the ruined landscape of the “strippins,” haunting reminders of Pennsylvania’s past energy booms. This is a dispatch from a forgotten America—a work of searing moral clarity from one of the finest writers of her generation, a courageous and necessary book.

30 review for Heat & Light

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    $1.99 Kindle special today! If you are interested in this topic --This book very well written!!! An excellent price. (it must break the authors heart to be selling so low). Fracking is very much a part of this novel. So, before I read this book - .....(hard copy)...I spent some time talking about the pros and cons with my friend Comet ... ( a pool visitor & book buddy). It was a useful conversation. Given the timely subject - book clubs might want to consider choosing "Heat and Light". $1.99 Kindle special today! If you are interested in this topic --This book very well written!!! An excellent price. (it must break the authors heart to be selling so low). Fracking is very much a part of this novel. So, before I read this book - .....(hard copy)...I spent some time talking about the pros and cons with my friend Comet ... ( a pool visitor & book buddy). It was a useful conversation. Given the timely subject - book clubs might want to consider choosing "Heat and Light". Jennifer Haigh provides plenty of juice to talk about: interesting and diverse characters - problems with relationships - political concerns, challenges and opportunities about fracking..... environmental devastation, economic depression, emotional concerns, and how families in small communities often feel left behind. Bakerton, Pennsylvania, a small decaying town, is situated above a large natural gas deposit. This is very much a social novel - definitely thought provoking...it's worth reading. Yet, I also believe discussions about this book will enhance the experience. The storytelling is very engaging in parts - but it's also sleepy in other parts. There are a couple things that had me shaking my head -- I thought Jennifer stereotyped a couple of the residents. The organic farmers and lesbian couple were definitely pegged as the anti-fracking people. Yet anybody from Houston Texas... were the villains. I live in California - I'm not blind -- what she did makes the obvious choice... but I'm not sure it was the kind choice. I looked at my own stand on environmental issues from different sides -opposing interests that are under National debate. This is an important topic....and through the characters different challenges they are each face and their points of view - we look at all sides of fracking.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Long time readers of this author knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult subjects, instead she tackles them head on. In this one she return to Bakerton, Pennsylvania whose glory days are gone. One know for their Bakerton coal, the town is now in its death throes. Many had left, stores and businesses are dying and then seemingly from nowhere they are given an opportunity. Natural gas companies come to town and all they have to do is sign on the dotted line. Instant money to allow drilling, Long time readers of this author knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult subjects, instead she tackles them head on. In this one she return to Bakerton, Pennsylvania whose glory days are gone. One know for their Bakerton coal, the town is now in its death throes. Many had left, stores and businesses are dying and then seemingly from nowhere they are given an opportunity. Natural gas companies come to town and all they have to do is sign on the dotted line. Instant money to allow drilling, paid by the acre, easy money or so they think. Just sign, don't read the contract, just so happy for a way our of debt, a way to get ahead. Fracking, fossil fuels, our endless demand for cheaper energy. Many of these characters are familiar from her previous books set in this town. But now we see the human cost of fracking, costs on characters that are now in over their head. We see the greed of the companies out to make a buck, not caring what it does to the environment or the people. Extensive research, much is learned about this horrible practice, Colorado and Wyoming have now been mostly cracked out. Three mile island and its devastation are referred to, its consequences horrific. Environmental illnesses and injuries, things we don't understand. All encompassed by the people of Beaverton, people trying to live their lives, some great characters, some hard to like, but this personal touch makes it all very real. Supporters, lawyers, protesters, all sides. People who have owned farms for years, now at risk. At times Haigh came awfully close to being preachy, but sometimes that is what it takes to relate a subject so important. There is one part, near the end that I wished she had left out. Felt it wasn't necessary to the plot and really didn't fit but other than that this was a very good story. A very important one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anmiryam

    Jennifer Haigh is not a flashy writer. Her prose, while elegant, does not resort to pyrotechnics to dazzle you. This book isn't a powerhouse because of fancy narrative tricks (though it has one or two up its sleeve) or magical realism or any of a thousand other writerly sleights of hand. No this is a big book because she blocks and tackles the story and characters so that all the pieces fit together to tell a story about the impact our need for fossil fuels has on people, communities and our Jennifer Haigh is not a flashy writer. Her prose, while elegant, does not resort to pyrotechnics to dazzle you. This book isn't a powerhouse because of fancy narrative tricks (though it has one or two up its sleeve) or magical realism or any of a thousand other writerly sleights of hand. No this is a big book because she blocks and tackles the story and characters so that all the pieces fit together to tell a story about the impact our need for fossil fuels has on people, communities and our physical environment. This is a novel about fracking. But don't let that deter you. There are no grandstanding passages that obscure of Haigh's probing of her characters lives in the western Pennsylvania town of Bakerton. This is a town shambling towards becoming a modern ghost town, its long slow decline inevitable after its glory years of coal mining and before that, farming, passed into the history books. If you've read her earlier work Baker Towers or News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories the place, and many of the people here will be familiar to you. Even if you haven't, you will quickly be intrigued by the cast. There's prison guard Rich Devlin and his nervous, hypochondriacal wife, Shelby. Rich's neer-do-well former addict brother, Darren. Their neighbors, organic farmers Rena Weems and Susan (Mack) Mackey. Pastor Jess, a widow who has rebuilt a congregation in a town not predisposed to lady preachers. Rich and Darren's bar owner father, Dick and the former classmate of Darren's, Gia Bernardi, who now works in the bar as a waitress. Then there are the folks from away. 'Kip' Oliphant, the Texas based mogul, (surely based on Aubrey McClendon: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/...) who buys up much of the natural gas leases around Bakerton. The rig workers who come to drill on the Devlin's land. The protest organizing geology professor and his former student who now consults for the gas industry. It's a big cast, as befits a book that is about a place as much as about people We come to know and care for most of these flawed people ('Kip' is a true villain in my book, and don't get me started on my dislike for Shelby Devlin) as they struggle with their hopes for the future that drilling brings and the disillusionment that follows. Old relationships falter and new ones begin. Addiction rears its ugly head, for Bakerton is not only smack in the middle of the fracking boom, but directly in the crosshairs of the meth epidemic. Substance abuse can provide escape in a world without an abundance of opportunity. It all makes for compelling and thought-provoking reading. This is a timely and powerful novel, the kind of book that gets slapped with the label "Great American Novel". It may be a grandiose title, but Haigh deserves to have Heat and Light viewed with that kind of respect.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    The mentions of the game Mousetrap throughout this novel were spot-on because I've always found that game unnecessarily complicated with too many moving pieces. This novel too, is about so many issues - fracking, activism, community, the economy, addiction, sexual orientation, incarceration, scientific inquiry -- on top of the characters' stories of loneliness, desperation, need. Even the robust 427 pages weren't enough to cover it all. Don't get me wrong. Haigh is an incredibly talented author. The mentions of the game Mousetrap throughout this novel were spot-on because I've always found that game unnecessarily complicated with too many moving pieces. This novel too, is about so many issues - fracking, activism, community, the economy, addiction, sexual orientation, incarceration, scientific inquiry -- on top of the characters' stories of loneliness, desperation, need. Even the robust 427 pages weren't enough to cover it all. Don't get me wrong. Haigh is an incredibly talented author. From the start, she made me care about the town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. "Rural Pennsylvania doesn't fascinate the world, not generally. But cyclically, periodically, its innards are of interest. Bore it, strip it, set it on fire, a burnt offering to the collective need." Like her fictional town, her characters are interesting and complex. All of the stories are interwoven so while I still believe she just had too many stories going on, I was impressed at how it came together in the end. She's done her research and knows her topic. I learned a lot and had cause to really think about the cost of business, of energy, of the American dream. Just because we can do something, should we? "It's a work of genius, alive as a human body, the dream of a scientist with the intellect of God. But the scientist himself did not design it. The engineers who designed it have never run it. The operators can't, themselves, maintain it. The maintenance crew has no idea what they're maintaining." The problem with a novel about environmental issues is that one issue invariably leads into the next and Haigh just couldn't help herself from touching upon each and every one. This is a good read, but for my money, Flight Behavior is a better piece of environment-based fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This is not a book I would have noticed or read without my current reading women challenge. It is set in Pennsylvania in the imaginary mining town of Bakerton, well, ex mining town. It focusses on a community in decline suddenly faced with the possibility of new riches in the form of fracking. Inevitably someone has had to label it the best fracking novel ever (Washington Post). This is a character driven novel and Haigh has set up a good cast of characters which are well drawn, human, flawed This is not a book I would have noticed or read without my current reading women challenge. It is set in Pennsylvania in the imaginary mining town of Bakerton, well, ex mining town. It focusses on a community in decline suddenly faced with the possibility of new riches in the form of fracking. Inevitably someone has had to label it “the best fracking novel ever” (Washington Post). This is a character driven novel and Haigh has set up a good cast of characters which are well drawn, human, flawed and believable. There are no real heroes or villains; apart from perhaps the CEO of the fracking company. Haigh portrays a declining small town with the inevitable problems with drugs and unemployment. Then there are the roughnecks who come in to do the drilling, each has their story and Haigh maps interactions with locals and families back home. She also notes the irony that Bakerton is an immigrant town in its roots, but there is a resent of workers from outside. You can tell Haigh is writing about what she knows, being brought up in Pennsylvania. Haigh describes her characters well. Geologists are described as “rumpled, whiskery men, palpably uncomfortable in polite society, like farm animals brought indoors.” Fracking, of course, is at the centre of it all and one of the characters describes visiting a drilling rig: “It’s as though the giant machines are running themselves…the noise is epic and surprisingly complex, layered like music: a low grinding he feels in the base of his spine, a shrill whine like the world’s largest table saw.” “An immense truck, larger than any he’s ever seen, is climbing the access road, or trying to. The thing moves at the speed of a cruise ship, enveloped in a cloud of diesel fumes. . . . In stunned silence they watch the hulking machine inch up the ridge. That it moves at all is a straight-up miracle. It’s as though an aircraft carrier has run aground in Rich’s back yard.” But the past is also present as the shadow of Three Mile Island is referenced as is the history relating to coal mining. There is actually quite a bit related to Three Mile Island and Haigh has clearly done some research on the issue, although she retains a level of cynicism about what happened, here talking about the reactor: “It is a work of genius, alive as a human body, the dream of a scientist with the intellect of God. But the scientist himself did not design it. The engineers who designed it have never run it. The operators can’t, themselves, maintain it. The maintenance crew has no idea what they’re maintaining. They perform procedures outlines in the Handbook, written by someone. They follow the schedule and complete the checklist and hang the yellow tag.” Haigh has spoken about writing the soul of a place and she manages it rather well in Heat and Light. I enjoyed this novel, learnt a little about fracking and would certainly read more by Haigh given the opportunity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    It took me a hot minute (no pun intended) to get into this one, but I got there in the end and it was worth the effort. It's an important story to tell about environmentalism, activism, the dangers of fracking, small-town vs. big business mentalities, and the vagaries of human nature and behavior, especially relevant for society today. It also stars the Everyman, the average working class nobodies and their families, and thus was uniquely presented. I couldn't give it a full five stars - not It took me a hot minute (no pun intended) to get into this one, but I got there in the end and it was worth the effort. It's an important story to tell about environmentalism, activism, the dangers of fracking, small-town vs. big business mentalities, and the vagaries of human nature and behavior, especially relevant for society today. It also stars the Everyman, the average working class nobodies and their families, and thus was uniquely presented. I couldn't give it a full five stars - not because I didn't enjoy it (4 stars on my personal scale means I really liked it), but I can't in good conscience rank it as high as some others I've read lately that I've enjoyed a bit more. There were a couple characters here who grated on my nerves, and it did take me a while to get invested in the plot. I'd recommend this though if you're interested in any of the current events issues I've mentioned above - in that case, it will probably appeal to your sensibilities.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Dark, dreary, harsh, sometimes coarse these adjectives apply here. I almost bailed out at one point, but its painful to turn down a book by this author! She paints such vivid pictures of the flawed individuals who drive the plot, and what a sense of place! The following description of woods soon to be leveled by the encroaching wheels of progress is so very affecting! The forest is a century old, mixed hardwoods, trunks thick as rain barrels the childhood gymnasium of four generations, prime Dark, dreary, harsh, sometimes coarse – these adjectives apply here. I almost bailed out at one point, but it’s painful to turn down a book by this author! She paints such vivid pictures of the flawed individuals who drive the plot, and what a sense of place! The following description of woods soon to be leveled by the encroaching wheels of progress is so very affecting! “The forest is a century old, mixed hardwoods, trunks thick as rain barrels – the childhood gymnasium of four generations, prime real estate for tree houses and tire swings. The forest ringing with war whoops, high-pitched laughter, Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free. There have been epic games of Red Rover, Red Rover; hide-and-seek invitationals that lasted for hours. It is a province of children, a place where adults do not venture – the coffee drinkers and newspaper readers, the tax payers and insurance buyers, the wearers of lipstick and ties. A kingdom governed by ancient laws, passed down through the ages, Dibs and Three Strikes and Tag, You’re It…’ Slowly, the reader becomes immersed in that dreary world where there is despair, together with dawning hope and unrealistic dreams. Jennifer Haigh does have an ax to grind, though, – about the environment and the evil, self- serving energy companies – which I found somewhat tolerable and vaguely annoying. There seemed to be an undue amount of technical detail as well, about fracking, the rigs, and drilling and so forth. Maybe this was necessary to bring the story forward. Heat and Light was certainly well researched and I’m not a detail person, so perhaps this criticism is unwarranted. Regardless, I’ll be first in line should she write another book! Startling, intrusive, arresting, and pervasive is this story, as indeed are the ‘heat and light’ elements of the title. The bleakness of the characters’ lives is poignantly, heartbreakingly rendered, such that it was a relief to put the book aside at times and take a deep breath! Yet I was irresistibly drawn back. Suspense was not a player, though. To my surprise, I just found myself caring amazingly about these troubled characters and their struggles. Maybe 4 stars, or three and a half….

  8. 5 out of 5

    Obsidian

    I really did enjoy Jennifer Haigh's "Mrs. Kimble" but this is the second book by Haigh that I could not get though. Heat & Light drags. It drags and drags and I just don't care what happens to anyone. Taking place in the town of Bakertown, "Heat & Light" showcases the changes the town experiences after a natural gas deposit is found. I really can't tell you much more than that. There were characters whose names I am blanking on. Some of the book followed some of the characters and then it I really did enjoy Jennifer Haigh's "Mrs. Kimble" but this is the second book by Haigh that I could not get though. Heat & Light drags. It drags and drags and I just don't care what happens to anyone. Taking place in the town of Bakertown, "Heat & Light" showcases the changes the town experiences after a natural gas deposit is found. I really can't tell you much more than that. There were characters whose names I am blanking on. Some of the book followed some of the characters and then it jumps around to those people who want to drill in the town, and then back again. I just recall the character of Shelby and her family and how her and her husband Rich don't seem to like each other much. The writing was okay, but honestly the flow of this book was disjointed. We kept jumping around timelines (I think) and I honestly couldn't keep straight what was going on. I wish that Ms. Haigh had just focused on the residents of the town and that's it. The setting of Bakertown felt flat in this one. Probably because there's not much description of the place beyond the opening chapter. I really didn't get a sense of how the town had changed to it's present day setting in the book. I just wish that any part of the book (people, characters, and writing) had come alive for me in any way. Instead I was bored from almost the beginning right up until I DNFed at page 210.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachel León

    A Facebook poll asked to name a novel that didn't receive nearly enough recognition this year. My vote was Rae Meadow's I WILL SEND RAIN, but Jennifer Haigh's new novel could be a close second. I enjoyed Haigh's prose and this ambitious story. It's a social novel dealing with environmental issues, but it didn't feel heavy handed to me, but skillful. This one is definitely worth checking out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    High Plains Library District

    Picture four people sitting at a square table, one on each side, working on a puzzle. Each of them will have a unique perspective on the incomplete image in the center of the table; a different side, a different angle, but all the pieces and perspectives are interconnected. Now, double thatmake it an octagon, or square the square for sixteen individual, but interrelated, views. Each new angle also means more overlap, more interaction between the participants. In that image you find a metaphor Picture four people sitting at a square table, one on each side, working on a puzzle. Each of them will have a unique perspective on the incomplete image in the center of the table; a different side, a different angle, but all the pieces and perspectives are interconnected. Now, double that—make it an octagon, or square the square for sixteen individual, but interrelated, views. Each new angle also means more overlap, more interaction between the participants. In that image you find a metaphor for the multiple point-of-view narration in Jennifer Haigh’s excellent new book, Heat and Light: A Novel. Well-written, well-plotted, and well-characterized, Heat and Light takes us deep down to the core of a place, its people and the (literal and figurative) wells that are drilled in their community. Haigh has “fracked” her characters and the locale to draw out their essence just as thoroughly as any energy company in her fictional Bakerton, PA has probed and plumbed the earth looking for natural gas and shale oil. What Haigh “pumps out,” what she delivers to “consumers” (readers) should fuel not only self-exploration but our civil discourse about energy use and policy. At once an easy-to-read and thought-provoking story, Haigh’s book deftly examines who extracts and produces our energy as well as the costs and benefits energy production brings to the people involved, their personal and physical ecosystems, and the environment in general. Through well-woven plot and well-rounded, intensely human characters, she treats us to an overview of U.S. energy history from the early 20th century to present day. She then forces us to ask, given our expectation of light and heat at the flip of a switch or touch of a button, what role we as consumers play in this process? And what role does the energy industry play in our political and social, not to mention, economic lives? If you live an area where fracking and oil and gas extraction are part of your daily life (as does this reviewer), you will want to read this book. If you live in an area that is debating the value of fracking, this book would provide an excellent and timely “community read.” More to the point, whether you like to read books by lamplight or on devices that have to be charged to function, Heat and Light should be next on your reading list. -Cindy

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. This review has been difficult to formulate, not because of concerns with the caliber of the book but because Id like to do it justice. With the setting and underlying themes, Ms. Haigh has managed to not only explore her characters with empathy for even minor players but to have their lives reflect so many issues facing us today. This is what good fiction is all about, isnt it? You become involved in someone elses story and think more deeply about I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. This review has been difficult to formulate, not because of concerns with the caliber of the book but because I’d like to do it justice. With the setting and underlying themes, Ms. Haigh has managed to not only explore her characters with empathy for even minor players but to have their lives reflect so many issues facing us today. This is what good fiction is all about, isn’t it? You become involved in someone else’s story and think more deeply about why people do the inexplicable. I live in Houston, a place many of the characters call home. I disagree completely with the description of Houston as "a charmless, treeless, damp sinkhole with urban pretensions”. There are plenty of trees, parks and all the urban amenities one could wish for even if the climate in summer is a little hard to handle. The stereotypes of the “bubba” businessmen were also a little hard to stomach. This section of the book almost made me quit reading but I am glad I didn’t. But this isn’t a story about Houston; this is set in former coal country in Pennsylvania. The latest round of extractive industry begins with a “landman” approaching local residents, most of whom are struggling to get by. For an upfront payment, these residents sell their mineral rights for a payment per acre with promises of income down the road once drilling begins. So begins what is really a second or third wave of exploitation of resources in the area of Bakerton, PA. As the author puts it: “Rural Pennsylvania doesn’t fascinate the world, not generally, but cyclically, periodically, its innards are of interest”. Ms, Haigh explores the remnants of coal mining, family history and its impact on decisions made today, The forces for and against fracking who are either off to the next cause or on to the next unexplored terrain are contrasted beautifully with the people who live in Bakerton and must live with their decisions for long after the business people and activists are gone. The lives of the locals are explored in a very real way and without preaching about it; the ills of a town left behind by the 21st economy are explored through a number of characters you can’t help caring about. This is true even if you become frustrated with their choices. In other words they are human and as most of our friends and family are in real life. There are no tidy endings here, again as in our real lives and where the people we have grown to care about is unknown. The story will stay with you though and inform the brief news stories and commentary we see about industry and environmental concerns. After all, there are people living in these areas and the news stories have very real world consequences for their present and their future lives.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Well done, complicated, sympathetic and painful exploration of a dying town, rough economy, and relationships by coincidence. Having enjoyed two of Haigh's earlier books, I was looking forward to this one. She's created both a panoramic and microscopic look at what happens when there are no jobs and people 'do what they've got to do to survive,' which, at the bottom, seems to be wind up on meth. I'd hate to see this book summed up as All You Need To Know About Fracking, when the humanity of it Well done, complicated, sympathetic and painful exploration of a dying town, rough economy, and relationships by coincidence. Having enjoyed two of Haigh's earlier books, I was looking forward to this one. She's created both a panoramic and microscopic look at what happens when there are no jobs and people 'do what they've got to do to survive,' which, at the bottom, seems to be wind up on meth. I'd hate to see this book summed up as All You Need To Know About Fracking, when the humanity of it encompasses so many rich characters. Sure, the literally rich owner of a major energy company has leveraged his soul along with his vision. But how do we light up an energy economy built on past practices? One of the main characters, Rich(!) Devlin, is barely scraping by as a prison guard. In an early chapter, when thinking about the inmates, he's already come to terms with what he can and cannot control. His mantra is "Don't make me see it." It's a metaphor that rules the entire book and everyone's actions. Don't make me look inside myself, don't let me see the whole picture, don't let me read the fine print. [page 39] "The town is named for its coal mines. The prison guard is named for his father. Both feel the weight of their naming, the ancestral burden: congenital defects, second hand hopes. Condemned, like all namesakes, to carry another's history, the bloopers and missteps, the lost promise. The concessions of age, its bitter surrenders; the rare and fleeting moments of grace." The portrait of the town, Bakerton, PA, has been mined before in Haigh's work. Generations of people scraping by in coal mines and small businesses are just trying to get a piece of the American Dream or die trying. Marriages fail, bad decisions trap and deflate dreams. But I think Heat and Light is one of the great American novels we're always talking about. It's now well into the new millennium when salesmen come to town to buy the mineral rights of natural gas after the coal mines are spent. People sell and sign and stay in place. Now. What will happen next? Everything, and it's not good.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma T. Clement

    I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Here it is: As a civil and environmental engineering student who goes to college in PA, I am very familiar with the Marcellus Shale. As a result, this book really interested me! I really liked how this book was about the Marcellus shale, coal, and electricity, but told a story (as opposed to just telling the facts about these issues in a dry, nonfiction book). I was drawn into this novel fairly quickly, as the author takes you I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Here it is: As a civil and environmental engineering student who goes to college in PA, I am very familiar with the Marcellus Shale. As a result, this book really interested me! I really liked how this book was about the Marcellus shale, coal, and electricity, but told a story (as opposed to just telling the facts about these issues in a dry, nonfiction book). I was drawn into this novel fairly quickly, as the author takes you inside the lives of many different (and interesting, diverse) characters in quick succession, making me want to read on to see how they all interact. And when I learned that Mack went to Penn State, I got really excited, as I currently go there for college. That small connection made me really grow to like Mack. On the other hand, I don't really like Rich Devlin, but I do like his brother, Darren. One thing I like about this book is that there are a ton of different characters, all brought together by a common thread. Even if I don't like one character, it doesn't affect how I like the book, because it has such a diverse group of characters and stories. Additionally, I thought the author did a good job of telling the story of Bakerton when fracking the Marcellus Shale got to their town. It wasn't overly technical, but I could tell that Haigh knew what she was talking about. But this book isn't just about fracking-it also deals with issues like drug addiction, unfaithful relationships, lesbianism, jealousy, and more. I liked it, and think it's a good read for anyone interested in environmental issues.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris Pavone

    In 2016 I read a lot of wonderful crime fiction; on the other hand, it was not a great year for me on the literary-fiction front. But 2016 finished up very strong with my pre-Christmas read of HEAT AND LIGHT, perhaps my favorite novel of the year, with such a richness of absolutely everything--of sympathetic character and poetic language, pathos and insight, even humor and excitement. I think it's a remarkable novel about what it means to be an American, and an important piece of literature for In 2016 I read a lot of wonderful crime fiction; on the other hand, it was not a great year for me on the literary-fiction front. But 2016 finished up very strong with my pre-Christmas read of HEAT AND LIGHT, perhaps my favorite novel of the year, with such a richness of absolutely everything--of sympathetic character and poetic language, pathos and insight, even humor and excitement. I think it's a remarkable novel about what it means to be an American, and an important piece of literature for our divisive times.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I loved this complex, multilayered drama about the residents of a rural Pennsylvania town caught up in the fracking boom. Haigh resists easy answers or condemnations, instead showing us nuanced, human perspectives on a controversial issue. Very well done!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    This is an interesting book about energy and there are lots of side stories here including the 3-mile island catastrophe. I felt like I really got an education at the same time I was entertained by the interesting plot, characters, and setting. The main story is about a small town in Pennsylvania that was first exploited for coal and when that died out the town dried up; but now it's being exploited for natural gas. I really didn't understand what fracking was till I read this book. The search This is an interesting book about energy and there are lots of side stories here including the 3-mile island catastrophe. I felt like I really got an education at the same time I was entertained by the interesting plot, characters, and setting. The main story is about a small town in Pennsylvania that was first exploited for coal and when that died out the town dried up; but now it's being exploited for natural gas. I really didn't understand what fracking was till I read this book. The search for energy seems to be one which always exploits the poorest level of worker, destroys the environment, spreads toxic waste in unimaginable ways, and leaves some people at the top obscenely wealthy. It's really horrific what we have done to our poor earth in search of fuel. This is the 4th book I have read by this author and I enjoyed all of them but this one is the best so far. It's a really good read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    A new Jennifer Haigh!! I didn't know! Can't wait!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Haigh is one of my favorite authors. She is an extremely gifted storyteller. I have enjoyed all her books, from 2003's "Mrs. Kimble" to "Faith", 2011. "Heat & Light" is a sequel to "Baker Towers," a 2005 novel that was considered a modern classic about a coal mining town in Pennsylvania during the 1940s. The community was composed of company houses and church festivals and firemen's parades (think the movie "Picnic"). But of course, due to the nature of the mens work it was also filled with Haigh is one of my favorite authors. She is an extremely gifted storyteller. I have enjoyed all her books, from 2003's "Mrs. Kimble" to "Faith", 2011. "Heat & Light" is a sequel to "Baker Towers," a 2005 novel that was considered a modern classic about a coal mining town in Pennsylvania during the 1940s. The community was composed of company houses and church festivals and firemen's parades (think the movie "Picnic"). But of course, due to the nature of the men’s work it was also filled with union trouble and poverty, as well as frequent tragedy. Eventually, the time came when the mines were closed leaving behind an abandoned population. The hardworking families whose toils fueled America were forgotten. "Baker Towers" is historical fiction at its very best. It leaves the reader realizing how destructive the forces of change can be. In "Heat & Light" we are back in the same Pennsylvania area, though now in present day. The town was given the chance to be prosperous once again. It was discovered that the residents were living on top of earth filled with natural gas. Most of the residents were farmers and there were many arguments between them regarding whether to drill or not to drill? Similar to "Baker Towers" the reader is left wondering if the townsfolk were more cursed than blessed to live on land filled with natural resources. Once again, it was heartbreaking to read how industries that provide the resources that we need to survive are also the same industries that destroy the small towns providing them. Many inhabitants were conned into signing over their land and did not receive any of the promised money; that was lost to them through legal loopholes. (The rich get richer and the poor get screwed). I’m sure some readers will disagree with the author’s opinion on the controversial topic of fracking, but she makes a very strong case for its deadliness. Even though I enjoyed the novel, this is the first of all Haigh’s work for which I cannot give a 100% positive rating. She created many richly written, interesting characters, yet oddly that was a flaw in the story. Usually when the reader gets an intimate portrayal into the life of each character it heightens the story. In this book, in some instances, it detracts from the energy of the story. There were just too many rapidly introduced individuals, some followed throughout the book and some mentioned only once. I wish Haigh would have written the novel as connecting short stories rather than a novel with disconnected people. I believe that format would have worked better in this story. Still, the reader gets to see up close the pain of what life is like in two versions of a hurting blue collar town. Even with my one criticism, this is a complicated and sympathetic American tale written by an excellent writer. Find all my reviews at https://books6259.wordpress.com/

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Returning to Bakerton, Pennsylvaniathe setting for the 2005 best-selling novel Baker Towersauthor Jennifer Haigh again focuses on an energy source and its effects on a small community. For decades, coal fueled Bakerton and the country. In this town, multiple generations worked in the coal mines. Few left to pursue higher education or a different path. Bakerton sits on the Marcellus Shale, a huge natural gas deposit. Tapping into this natural gas source utilizes questionable techniques and could Returning to Bakerton, Pennsylvania—the setting for the 2005 best-selling novel Baker Towers—author Jennifer Haigh again focuses on an energy source and its effects on a small community. For decades, coal fueled Bakerton and the country. In this town, multiple generations worked in the coal mines. Few left to pursue higher education or a different path. Bakerton sits on the Marcellus Shale, a huge natural gas deposit. Tapping into this natural gas source utilizes questionable techniques and could lead to possibly dangerous and deadly consequences. Haigh creatively examines fracking through nuanced, broken characters and a detailed sense of place. She vividly describes the process as well as the rough crews attracted to these high-risk, high-paying short-term gigs-- mostly men who work hard and party harder. Not all that different from the coal mining days. Some residents choose to lease their land while others remain wary of fracking and its side-effects. Prison guard Rich Devlin wants to run a farm while his wife Shelby believes that the water might be poisoning their daughter. Organic dairy farmers Mack and Rena remain against the drilling and refuse to lease or sell their land. Rena meets an environmental activist and becomes involved in anti-fracking issues. Influxes of out-of-state drillers disrupt and divide the town. Relationships may implode. Money changes the perspective and drive. Their lives might improve a bit. For many this seemingly easy money might resolve their struggles and allow them to expand their goals. Bakerton remains in a bit of a limbo. Alcohol, meth and religion allow people to avoid feelings and band-aid emotional wounds. At turns fascinating, sad, infuriating, provocative and authentic, Heat & Light pulls in the reader from the jump. This well-researched, impressive novel exposes many angles of fracking. In order to capture this present day dilemma, Haigh effectively dips into the past with the Three Mile Island disaster as well as coaling. The novel generously addresses an important hot-button topic with sharp prose and a stellar cast of characters as well as an intriguing story-line. REVIEW copy provided by Ecco. posted here: https://entertainmentrealm.com/2016/0...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patty Shlonsky

    Heat and Light is a story about small town life in Pennsylvania, the impact of fracking and other energy extraction activities and the hypocrisy and opportunism on both sides of the energy debate. Rich Devlin has spent his entire life in Bakerton, Pennsylvania and works as a prison guard and sometime bartender at his father's bar. Rich's goal is to farm the land once farmed by his grandfather and he buys out the interests of his brother and sister, but does not have the financial means to get the Heat and Light is a story about small town life in Pennsylvania, the impact of fracking and other energy extraction activities and the hypocrisy and opportunism on both sides of the energy debate. Rich Devlin has spent his entire life in Bakerton, Pennsylvania and works as a prison guard and sometime bartender at his father's bar. Rich's goal is to farm the land once farmed by his grandfather and he buys out the interests of his brother and sister, but does not have the financial means to get the farm up and running. Rich is married to Shelby and they have two children, the chronically ill Olivia and her younger brother, Braden. Kip Oliphant is the founder and CEO of Dark Elephant Energy, which, among other things, is a giant in hydraulic fracturing. Dark Elephant sends its best salesman to Bakerton, Pennsylvania to start signing up leases so that it can accumulate enough land to begin mining shale. Rich immediately signs, accepting Dark Elephant's first offer thinking only about the money he will receive to enable him to realize his dream of farming. Unfortunately, Dark Elephant is unable to start drilling because some of Rich's neighbors have not agreed to terms. The properties need to be bundled and the owners of the acreage in the middle of the bundle refuse to agree. One of those properties is Mackey Farms, run by a lesbian couple (Rena and Mack) who have rejected Dark Elephant, the result of which has been threats and vandalism to their property. Mackey Farms supplies some of Pennsylvania's finest restaurants and markets with organic products from their farm. When the owner of one of the properties who has refused to sign a lease conveniently dies of a heart attack, his property is leased to Dark Elephant and the drilling begins. The book describes the varying impact of the drilling. First is the presence of many workers from out of state, creating additional traffic, higher rents and crowded amenities, although notably, none of the local residents are hired to work on the rigs. Relationships develop between the workers and the residents, which of course are only temporary. The well water becomes contaminated with methane and vendors do not want to purchase animal products raised on farms either directly or indirectly impacted by the drilling. The noise levels are unbearable and the land is effectively ruined. Ultimately, the energy company's sole interest is making money and when it becomes clear that the drilling is a losing venture, they simply clear out leaving their mess behind. Throughout it all, the book describes the varying impact of the activities on Rich and his family, Rena and Mack and Kip and his family . During the height of the drilling in Bakerton, a community activist, Lorne Trexler, comes to town in an effort to encourage the community to reject the drilling and pursue legal action. Lorne develops a relationship with Rena, who finds herself attracted to Lorne and works directly with him. One of the children in the community is ill and they believe it is due to the water contamination. When a highly regarded physician determines that the illness is likely not the result of the water and may be the result of something more nefarious unrelated to the drilling, Trexler's reaction is indifference for the child and disappointment for the potential the loss of an emotion laden opportunity to make his point. When he later realizes that the cause of the child's illness is still unclear, "He exhales audibly. 'All right, then. It's still possible the water is to blame. For our purposes, that possibility is enough.'" Lorne's activism is simply a different type of opportunism, also taking advantage of the impacted community. In addition to the focus on fracking, the book goes back to the impact of coal mining and then to the melt down at Three Mile Island. There is a focus on the small town experiences of domestic violence and drug addiction, in particular Methamphetamine, of which nobody who lives in the community seems to be too aware. "It's the fundamental problem of a life lived in one place: sooner or later, everything becomes invisible." The book is good, not great, but it is an enjoyable read and gives you some insight into the business and impact of fracking. If you like this review, subscribe to www.frombriefstobooks.com

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert Blumenthal

    This novel deals with the process known as fracking and all the aspects of what it means to the US and to the people living near where it is being done. It has been quite controversial, being touted as a temporary (at least) solution to our burning of coal, though recent studies are showing a much larger than anticipated release of methane, mostly due to shoddy work on the part of the corporations that are in charge (what else is new), which is awful for accelerating the devastating effects of This novel deals with the process known as fracking and all the aspects of what it means to the US and to the people living near where it is being done. It has been quite controversial, being touted as a temporary (at least) solution to our burning of coal, though recent studies are showing a much larger than anticipated release of methane, mostly due to shoddy work on the part of the corporations that are in charge (what else is new), which is awful for accelerating the devastating effects of climate change. I, personally, am opposed to fracking, especially the way it is being done presently, with minimal oversight. Now that that is out of the way, let me say that Jennifer Haigh handles the issue very fairly, showing all the positive and negative aspects of both sides of the issue. She introduces a cast of characters in a very small town in Western Pennsylvania who have been struggling ever since their coal mines were closed. Enter Darco Energy from Texas, who convince a bunch of people to allow drilling on their land for a share of the profit (much smaller than it should be). The novel follows several people who are affected by this turn of events, from people needing quick money to a lesbian couple who run an organic dairy. The author weaves a tale that is rich in character, not terribly exciting but definitely compelling, and ends with a sort of denouement to the whole thing. There is no central character in all this. If it were a movie, no one could qualify for best actor or best actress awards. This didn't bother me that much, for I found all of the characters interesting. However, it did lessen the emotional impact a bit. This is more of a set of character studies and interesting timely information about energy production and small town life. I wasn't moved particularly by this novel, but I was very fascinated by it. And I enjoyed the even-handed approach--both the energy company and the environmentalists have their faults and deceptions, and I felt that it was realistically presented. And on top of all that, the novel was extremely well-written.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    In her newest novel, Jennifer Haigh returns to the small Pennsylvanian town of Baker Towers, a world she first explored in her 2005 book by the same name. In Baker Towers, she explores coal mining, but in Heat & Light, she opens her book with a short history of oil. Then, she delivers a single line that stayed with me as I read the rest of the book: "More than most places, Pennsylvania is what lies beneath." As someone who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am well aware of how defined my In her newest novel, Jennifer Haigh returns to the small Pennsylvanian town of Baker Towers, a world she first explored in her 2005 book by the same name. In Baker Towers, she explores coal mining, but in Heat & Light, she opens her book with a short history of oil. Then, she delivers a single line that stayed with me as I read the rest of the book: "More than most places, Pennsylvania is what lies beneath." As someone who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am well aware of how defined my world was by what was beneath me. I am also well aware of the state's problematic relationships with the environment and the blue collar/working class world. Haigh's newest novel takes us into the heat of this relationship with the story of how fracking invades and thus, changes the lives of those who live in Baker Towers, Pennsylvania. It's through this story that learn about Rich Devlin, who leases his mineral rights to finance his dreams of farming. We learn about his young daughter, whose mysterious illness may or may not be because of environmental issues that have been caused fracking. We learn about a lonely preacher, who falls in love with one of the workers who is fracking the land. We learn about organic dairy farmers, Mack and Rena, whose business is hurt by the environmental issues going on around them. All of their lives are intertwined by the arrival of fracking in their world. Yes, Haigh's novel is political. There's no denying that. Still, she doesn't offer any clear cut answers to the questions she poses through her characters about a world where fracking may be both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps that is what I loved most about this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Korey

    Jennifer Haigh is a national treasure. I could write my own novel gushing about how great this book is. It is truly spectacular. When my husband saw me glued to this book, riveted by every word, he asked me what it was about. I paused and said "it's about fracking, but really it's about everything." Haigh masterfully makes this book feel intimate and epic at the same time. This is a careful, detailed character study that unpeels each character like an onion. This is a work that also bursts with Jennifer Haigh is a national treasure. I could write my own novel gushing about how great this book is. It is truly spectacular. When my husband saw me glued to this book, riveted by every word, he asked me what it was about. I paused and said "it's about fracking, but really it's about everything." Haigh masterfully makes this book feel intimate and epic at the same time. This is a careful, detailed character study that unpeels each character like an onion. This is a work that also bursts with ambition and wrestles with pretty much every issue of significance in modern American life. Fracking is the perfect issue through which to comment on capitalism and politics and marriage and family and faith and addiction and the American dream. I can't think of something you would want a novel to do that this does not do perfectly. I love you Jennifer Haigh!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Heat & Light is stunning and panoramic in scope. Jennifer Haigh shows us another side of Bakerton -- of the industries that provide resources we need to survive; yet are destroying our small towns and arguably poisoning us. Heat and Light examines all of these angles from the oil brokers to the landowners who are trying to build a future for their families to the contractors who live away from their families. Is fracking and environmental devastation of resources our legacy? Is a desperate Heat & Light is stunning and panoramic in scope. Jennifer Haigh shows us another side of Bakerton -- of the industries that provide resources we need to survive; yet are destroying our small towns and arguably poisoning us. Heat and Light examines all of these angles from the oil brokers to the landowners who are trying to build a future for their families to the contractors who live away from their families. Is fracking and environmental devastation of resources our legacy? Is a desperate power grab for the American Dream -- where we are forced to "sell our souls to the devil" -- our new reality? And is all of this really making us sick? The answers are not easy and Jennifer Haigh does not pretend that they are -- they are complicated and she doesn't hold back anything to answer them. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Based on its description, I never would have picked this book up and chosen to read it. Something about the review for the Book of the Month club drew me to it, though, and I'm so glad I picked it. On the surface, the book is about drilling for oil in Pennsylvania; at least, it's what ties everyone in the book together. But what it's really about is the characters--how they're connected, what they see, think, feel. I loved getting to know them. I also really enjoyed Haigh's writing style. I look Based on its description, I never would have picked this book up and chosen to read it. Something about the review for the Book of the Month club drew me to it, though, and I'm so glad I picked it. On the surface, the book is about drilling for oil in Pennsylvania; at least, it's what ties everyone in the book together. But what it's really about is the characters--how they're connected, what they see, think, feel. I loved getting to know them. I also really enjoyed Haigh's writing style. I look forward to reading more from her.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ayelet Waldman

    She's such an amazing writer. Woefully under appreciated.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    I saw this on a best of list (it's the most wonderful time of the year!!!!!) and the topic intrigued me of course but more than that what I read about her writing. And I loved it. I did. Will I be pressing it in your hand? Probably not. You may not appreciate her writing style, or the topic but I enjoyed all of it. It's not on every best of but it's on some outliers. And that's where the joy is because you most likely haven't seen this screaming at you all year from the book stands thinking fine I saw this on a best of list (it's the most wonderful time of the year!!!!!) and the topic intrigued me of course but more than that what I read about her writing. And I loved it. I did. Will I be pressing it in your hand? Probably not. You may not appreciate her writing style, or the topic but I enjoyed all of it. It's not on every best of but it's on some outliers. And that's where the joy is because you most likely haven't seen this screaming at you all year from the book stands thinking fine fine I'll read it already! But you don't because it doesn't really sound that interesting but still you carry that guilt around with you all year. That heavy guilt of a book you "should" read that you just don't care to. Why don't we have a word for that in the English language? I bet the Germans have a word. See- you don't have that that about this book because you haven't seen it everywhere and it hasn't been making you all guilty and anxious so that's my gift to you. Merry Christmas. But enough about me. What's it about? The setting is rural Pennsylvania at the beginning of the gas exploration in the Marcellus. As she writes "rural Pennsylvania doesn't fascinate the world." And that's what a great writer does. Makes rural Pennsylvania interesting. Which probably means in the right hands someone could make Midland interesting. (Are you listening HOJO? The time is nigh.) Aaaaaaand it has to do with the F word. Fracking. But it's not preachy so if you have preconceived notions about it sweep those out the door. Take all the letters and your earplugs and just sweep them on out. It's a thread in the book but it's not everything. What's everything is what happens in the town and to the people and all their internal lives. Especially their internal lives. That's where the good stuff is right? The chapter on 3 mile island alone was worth the time I spent reading this book. Read it. You should. I changed my mind. I am telling you to read this book. It's not the Nightingale or Ordinary Grace or Bridget Jones. But it's good and I think you'll like it and then we can discuss it. But only if you read it in the next week. Because I have the working memory of a 90 year old. Or a 47 year old.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    A plot taking a deep dive into the destruction caused by the energy world of drilling, fracking, nuclear plants and the Three Mile Island disaster, people selling their souls and land rights to make a quick buck to the drilling companies and their being shocked when their land is denuded of trees and the water table contaminated with methane gas all in the pursuit of heat and light (a.k.a. petroleum). A wide cast of characters focused on Rich and Shelby Devlin who sell access rights onto their A plot taking a deep dive into the destruction caused by the energy world of drilling, fracking, nuclear plants and the Three Mile Island disaster, people selling their souls and land rights to make a quick buck to the drilling companies and their being shocked when their land is denuded of trees and the water table contaminated with methane gas all in the pursuit of heat and light (a.k.a. petroleum). A wide cast of characters focused on Rich and Shelby Devlin who sell access rights onto their farm in Bakerton, Pennsylvania to the Darco (a.k.a. Dark Elephant) company owned by Kip "The Whip" Oliphant. Rich works as a guard at the local prison and he needs to make some quick money to get his farm running. They have two children Braden and Olivia. Shortly after the drilling begins, Shelby claims their water smells funny and Olivia begins to get sick. Rena Koval and her romantic and business partner, Susan "Mack" Mackey own Friend-Lea Acres organic dairy farm. They are activists and are opposed to any drilling and fracking. Rena has a son, Calvin Weems, who is a pot grower and distributor. He goes to prison where Rich Devlin is a guard. Rena becomes attracted to an activist geologist professor Dr. Lorne Trexler. Trexler is on the war path against one of his former students Dr. Amy Rubin who has sold her soul to the petroleum industry. Pastor Jess is the local minister. Her husband, Pastor Wesley Peacock died from cancer. As a seven year old child he and his parents were exposed to the Three Mile Island disaster. Ironically their deaths were "untraceable" to the radiation leak. Pastor Jess is attracted to one of the drillers Hercules "Herc" Marshall whose wife, Colleen, and family live in Texas. Darren Devlin is a recovering heroin addict living in Boston. He works at the Wellway recovery center as a counselor. He comes back to Bakerton for an extended vacation and gets wrapped up with meth and Gia Bernardi. The plot steams with tension around the environment, corruption, and relationships.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    An excellent entry point in to the fracking conversation, Haigh provides us with a rich cast of characters, each playing his/her role in this story that reveals the political, social, and economic dynamics of the fracking industry. The coal-stripped Bakerton is the backdrop on which stories of poverty-related trauma play out. Anyone who lives in a depressed factory/energy town can relate to these stories and these characters, who seem to be suffering from collective PTSD. Each owns her/her An excellent entry point in to the fracking conversation, Haigh provides us with a rich cast of characters, each playing his/her role in this story that reveals the political, social, and economic dynamics of the fracking industry. The coal-stripped Bakerton is the backdrop on which stories of poverty-related trauma play out. Anyone who lives in a depressed factory/energy town can relate to these stories and these characters, who seem to be suffering from collective PTSD. Each owns her/her trauma in their own way, and it is in the midst of this financial and emotional devastation that the fracking industry vampirizes the town, drilling and then leaving. Each character lives with the aftermath of his/her choices. The outside view is told through the characters of Kip, a greed-driven wheeler dealer in the industry, Bobby Frame, and Lorne, the academic turned activist whose motives are every bit as questionable as the frackers' are. Lorne wants to win, and he uses his substantial charisma as a "man of consequence in the world" to manipulate those who are drawn to him. It is through Lorne that we get a glimpse into the self-hatred that permeates Bakerton; he points out that the people are so beaten down, they can't muster outrage, that they expect to be mistreated and accept usuary as their lot in life. Not only does Haigh tell the story of this town, but she also pulls in the cultural knowledge surrounding the Three Mile Island disaster through the character of Wesley, who find a weird soulmate in "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" of 1970s pop culture. Haigh's writing is frack well deep, and nothing in this novel is simple. As a life-long resident of Youngstown, Ohio, for me, this novel pressed all of the buttons. I'll likely read it again and again for its unique insight.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karyl

    This is an epic, sweeping novel, detailing what fracking can do to a town, its environment, and its people. It's not a pretty picture, but the reader has a great deal of sympathy for the residents of Bakerton, a town slowly sliding into irretrievable decline. When the coal was gone, and the mines shut, what else was there to do for the residents? Natural gas is discovered, and now there's hope for a new influx of cash flow -- but all is not as it seems. This is a story of people trying to make This is an epic, sweeping novel, detailing what fracking can do to a town, its environment, and its people. It's not a pretty picture, but the reader has a great deal of sympathy for the residents of Bakerton, a town slowly sliding into irretrievable decline. When the coal was gone, and the mines shut, what else was there to do for the residents? Natural gas is discovered, and now there's hope for a new influx of cash flow -- but all is not as it seems. This is a story of people trying to make the best of a bad situation, of high-powered corporations who care only for the bottom dollar, of proselytizers who care only about convincing people of their position, regardless of its veracity. There's very little in this book that's very hopeful, but it seems to be the way of the world nowadays, which is a true shame. It's true that there are a lot of characters to keep track of in this story, but I felt as though most of them were very well fleshed out. I'm not certain why Haigh included the chapter on Three Mile Island, though I see that Wes is convinced that it's the disaster that caused the cancer that killed him. I'm just unsure why Wes is really a character when by the time dealt with in the book, he's already dead. I do know that there are two books that also deal with this town and most of its characters, which could explain the inclusion of Wes and his cancer, but as a standalone novel, it's a little jarring. Even at 450 pages, this is a rather fast read. I thoroughly enjoyed Haigh's writing and the way she's able to paint her scenes with words, but the end comes a bit too quickly for such a slow-simmering novel. It's almost as though Haigh ran out of steam so she just tied everything up in a bow. It's definitely worth the read for Haigh's beautiful writing and for the discussion on fracking. It's a novel that makes one think.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.