Posts Tagged fracking

book review: Heat & Light

heat and light

Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh. Ecco| May 3, 2016| 488 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 9780061763298

RATING: 4.5/5*

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.

“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.”

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.

“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, secondhand hopes.”

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 by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Putnam.

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purchase at Amazon: Heat and Light: A Novel

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Promised Land: film review

promised land

Description: When he’s dispatched to a small town similar to one he grew up in, a salesman [Matt Damon] for a natural gas company grows conflicted.

“You offered us money. All we had to do to get it was be willing to scorch the earth beneath our feet.”

This quiet film shows both sides of the natural gas issue through the eyes of a small farming community that’s struggling with a failing economy. As a natural gas company swoops in to buy up land, various people consider their future options. Will money from the company improve their lives or will the natural gas development exploit them and destroy their values? Wish it covered fracking in a bit more detail. Wonderful, thoughtful script by Matt Damon and John Krasinski and superb acting by Damon, Krasinski, Frances MacDormand, Rosemarie Dewitt and Hal Holbrook.

Promised Land is provocative and even confusing with a great twist. I got a bit teary at the end. Matt Damon’s character gives this speech to a farmer about how he grew up in the Midwest and couldn’t wait to get out of there and how the guy is most likely subsidized by the government and he didn’t understand why he’d keep on doing something that was so unforgiving and so outdated. To me that’s honest and makes complete sense. As much as people don’t want to give up the way things are, sometimes change needs to happen. We could re-allocate our resources in different ways. We need to embrace progress and change and move into the future without harming each other, our environment and animal.

–review by Amy Steele

Starring: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances Mac Dormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Matt Damon and John Krasinski
Studio: Focus Features
Rating: R (for language)
Release Date: January 4, 2013

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