Acclaimed New York Times best-selling 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 and Light depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Soaring and 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.
©2016 Jennifer Haigh (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
I am getting tired of books that have a political point of view (even if I agree) and construct a fairly lame story on which the opinions hang. Are you listening, Barkskins? Ms Haight is a great writer but she's sold herself short on the one. In addition, the narrator mispronunces words. My current fave? Macadam with the accent woefully misplaced.
There were way too many subplots and no real identifiable main plot. The story jumped around from character to character and to different time points without any clear connection or reason to go there. The characters were mostly stereotyped and poorly developed. I live in the Marcellus Shale area and lived through the good and bad of the gas boom. I am not sure that someone who did not have this experience would be able to follow or understand the dynamics.
Tell us about yourself!I am an avid reader but enjoy listening while waking to work, ironing, doing dishes, etc. Listening to novels is an entirely different experience than reading; a well narrated story is a cross between drama and written fiction. Listening to books on Audible has been a wonderful experience.
Yes. This is a deftly handled sympathetic portrait of the complexities and difficulties of rural life in America layered with interesting family dynamics and environmental issues.
The Devlin brothers. They had a flawed but deep relationship. Excellent portrayal
I enjoyed thesmmooth rotation of believable accents from Texas to Latino to rural Pennsylvania; the rotation from sweet farm wife to angry attorney to Texas roughnecks to prison inmates.
This is a masterful blending of story with character development and plot as well as environmental concerns translted to a local level showing the way environmental issues affect every day lives. Well done.
I was mostly unmoved by the book which trains a shrugging point of view on a uniformly flawed cast of characters whose thoughts and motives are devoid of any sense of virtue, or anything beyond a craven short-sightedness. It is a book without heroes or villains, which is clearly an intentional decision to enhance its realism. Normally, that's a choice I appreciate but for whatever reason I ended up feeling like every character was a little dumb. There is a clever hint regarding the smell of grape candy that undermines the perceived innocence of the mother, but it only added to the sense of reading about a cast of fools. That's fine except given the subject of fracking the ambivalence it invoked bled over into fracking itself, which borders on the amoral. A good novel shouldn't read like an op-Ed but neither should it conclude with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
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