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Dirt Cheap: A Novel Paperback – June 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Curbstone Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931896291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931896290
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,364,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–A tale of personal betrayal and corporate neglect. Nicholas Baran lives in a suburb where cancer is more common than car accidents. Hometown Chemical has a history of polluting the river and adjacent lands. Now that the plant is shut down, local developers are happy to forget the area's toxic past in favor of building upscale housing developments. But the past will not be forgotten in the number of children stricken with cancer at the local school or in the numerous victims in the surrounding neighborhoods. Having recently survived leukemia himself, Nicky is willing to risk everything–marital strife, public scorn, even a relapse–to expose the truth about the facility. Marc Martineau, local real-estate developer and president of the homeowners' association, is just as prepared to stop him. Their families and the local community are caught in the middle. This absorbing novel is as much about the price a family must pay for a man's personal crusade as it is about environmental pollution. Readers are offered realistic truths that can lead to intense debate: Which is more important–responsibility to family or fidelity to a cause?–Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"...a chilling, thrilling, page-turning story of a man's quest for eco-justice...Don't miss this one." -- Marnie Mueller, author of Green Fires: Assault on Eden, A Novel of the Ecuadorian Rainforest

"Lyn Miller-Lachmann's Dirt Cheap is one of those rare political novels that convinces you of its point of view through complex characterization and excellent storytelling. Not only is this novel's focus on the environment an important and timely topic but readers will identify with the personal struggle of its hero, Nicholas Baran, as he attempts to make a difference in a world too often determined by materialism and apathy, when instead it should be changed by personal commitment and the human touch. A wonderful and satisfying debut."

—Sergio Troncoso, author of The Nature of Truth 

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Olivas on June 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Lyn Miller-Lachmann has dedicated her life to promoting multicultural literature in the hope that readers of all ages will learn to appreciate and admire those who come from different cultures. She also has been active in human rights, social and environmental justice, and peace groups since the mid-1970s.

She could easily rest on her laurels and call it a day.

But she now brings us her first novel, Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press). In it, as with her other work, Miller-Lachmann does not shy away from tough questions of what we, as a people, are doing to our planet and to each other. And she does so with crisp dialogue and fully realized characters.

The heart of this novel is the relationship between Nicholas Baran and Sandy Katz. Baran, who was raised in a scrapyard by an alcoholic father, is now deep into middle age and teaching at a community college, but with an anger toward life's injustices that drives him to radical politics and a brilliant, junkyard-dog intensity in the classroom. His anger helps him survive chemotherapy as he wrestles leukemia into remission. Baran is a handful for his wife and children, but they more or less allow him to live his radicalized life.

Katz, on the other hand, is young and not yet jaded. She teaches at the local middle school and has Baran's son in her class. Katz struggles with her independence from her parents and her desire to reconnect with Judaism. She also is failing miserably as a teacher. So when she's tapped to coach the "B" team in basketball -- which includes Baran's son -- she accepts the opportunity to burnish her teaching record.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Dirty Cheap by Lyn Miller-Lachmann is a novel about Nicholas Baran, a community college teacher struggling to expose the environmental contamination from industrial pollution which is believed to be the cause of a fatal cancer found in himself and others. Deftly authored in a vivid and active style by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Dirty Cheap rapidly carries its readers through the intricate plot of twists and turns as Baran's flailing attempts victimize him even further as a public enemy because if his efforts to expose the industrial polluters becomes successful, the local economy will tank and local property value will significantly decrease. A creative and expertly crafted tale of one man's relentless and heroic struggle for more then just his own against an entrenched and powerful system of industrial abuse, Dirty Cheap is highly recommended for inclusion into community library collections.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gail Hall Howard on May 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Reading Lyn Miller-Lachmann's novel changed the way I hear the news. The phrase "fighting pollution" had developed a tired feel -- especially with climate change as the headline grabber -- but the chemical poisoning of soil and water came back in all its horror when I read Dirt Cheap. Community college history professor Nicky Baran's cancer-induced pain and the rage that keeps him going anyway, as he digs into private property (people's backyards, corporate records) to find what poisoned him, add a wrench of human drama to statistics on ruined lakes and rivers. Nicky's wife is torn by his "crazy mission," as she calls it; one fierce quarrel starts in the laundry room and ends with a fervent sexual truce on the family room floor. Holly's internal debates about the meaning of their social activism past, the emotional turmoil her children think they are hiding, and the frustration of watching cancer from the passenger seat push the book along as much as the action. Her shocking choices, and Nicky's meticulously planned, wildly dangerous and entirely illegal final assault on corporate hypocrisy makes this book a true eco-thriller. The pleasure of the storytelling is immediate, but the issues stay under your skin.
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Format: Paperback
Take a ride on any major waterway, and you will see factories, because rivers, bays and oceans were our first industrial highways. Trust me: I'm a Jersey Girl, reared near "Cancer Alley" (Edison, Carteret, Perth Amboy, Elizabeth). Many of these factories have been abandoned, having lost their competitive edge to cheaper labor and lack of ecological legislation in other countries. (Ahem, has anyone tried to breathe in China lately?) Some companies, such as the fictional "Hometown Chemical Company", are bought up and/or turned over and rechristened with important pretty names such as Global Millennium BioChem. The new entities find creative ways of hiding the toxic pasts. This goes on all over the world. (In my hometown of Vernon, CT, an entire graveyard of car and truck tires were repurposed as landfill to support Interstate 84's overpasses.)

Luckily for fiction readers, the characters of DIRT CHEAP carry this tale of toxins killing families. Nick knocks himself out on behalf of his community college students, and on behalf of his neighbors who want him to be as blind as they are to the alarming increase in cancer cases in their McMansion part of town. He knocks himself out because the cancer is inside him and may be inside his family. But Nick can be a difficult person to love--mouthy, dirty on the ballfield, cocky in his teaching methods. Holly, his wife, represents to me the every-wife who can grow weary of balancing the needs of a demanding and idealistic husband and father to their children, with her own needs for love and attention. Through Miller-Lachmann's omniscient viewpoint, we come to understand instead of condemn their transgressions.
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