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Lake Effect: Two Sisters and a Town's Toxic Legacy Hardcover – August 29, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1992, Nichols' beloved elder sister was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. On her deathbed, she makes Nichols, already a journalist, promise to write about her illness and what the two of them suspected might be the cause of it: massive pollution in their hometown of Waukegen, Ill., on the shore of Lake Michigan. In the midst of working on the book, Nichols received her own diagnosis-she also has a rare form of cancer which requires aggressive treatment. "My story was my sister's once over," she writes. Nichols constructs a fast-moving, urgent narrative that catalogues the evidence of the many different forms of pollution and the likelihood that they contributed to the cancers, documenting the choices and treatment she must face as a cancer patient. There is also, inevitably, a prosecutorial tone and a barely suppressed sense of outrage that such reckless pollution could be allowed to happen. Even if, as she explains, the facts that what she uncovers wouldn't stand up in court, the book still bears witness to both her own and her sister's trials.
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Review

"A fast-moving, urgent narrative that catalogues the evidence of the many different forms of pollution and the likelihood that they contributed to the cancers, documenting the choices and treatment she must face as a cancer patient."
(Publishers Weekly)

"Presents convincing proof that Waukegan and Lake Michigan are prime suspects in the sisters' cancers."
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

"In Lake Effect, Nichols, now 49, weaves her investigations of Waukegan's pollution and the causes of cancer with her own story of diagnosis and treatment. It's a thoughtful examination of the risks faced by bodies made by nature in a world fabricated by technology."
(Pittsburgh City Paper)

"...Eloquent indictment of decades of corporate carelessness, official inaction and American society's reflexive focus on searching for a cure instead of a cause."
(EnviroBlog)

"I read this book like a desert hiker drinks water—in great, thankful gulps. It's a scientific investigation of the most intimate sort. It's a family memoir with public policy implications. 'Stories matter,' says Nancy Nichols. And then she proves it."
(Sandra Steingraber biologist and author of Living Downstream)

"A stunning, haunting, exquisite memoir. As a scientist, I'm dumbstruck. As a human being, I'm appalled."
(Devra Davis Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh)

"In Lake Effect Nancy Nichols beautifully weaves together the story of her sister's death and her own ill health with the equally compelling story of her hometown of Waukegan on Lake Michigan's shores. Her quest to make sense of her family's devastating illnesses and the region's toxic chemicals is clear-eyed, eloquent, and revealing."
(Kathlyn Conway author of Ordinary Life and Illness and the Limits of Expression)

"Powerful. Intense. Compelling. With spare, elegant prose… poignant yet scientifically accurate, Nancy Nichols weaves a personal story into a universal tragedy, about toxic waste, careless industry, and human suffering."
(Pete Myers coauthor of Our Stolen Future)

"A chilling indictment of how government and big business prized profits over health and a moving tale of one woman's struggle to understand why."
(People Magazine)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (August 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597260843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597260848
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,009,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patricia Wen on September 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I rarely read a book in one sitting, but this one I could not put down. Nancy Nichols has put together a beautifully written and robustly researched book about her sister's - and her own - struggle with cancer, and her investigation into the links between these cancers and the contaminated lake of their childhood. What I love about the book is that it is as emotionally powerful as it is intellectually honest. There seems voluminous evidence to suggest a link between her old neighborhood and her family's cancers, but she does not let her writings resort to impulsive finger-pointing. She is journalistically rigorous, while being human, real and, at times, quite funny. A truly exceptional book - something for the heart and mind.
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Format: Hardcover
Nancy writes an amazing environmental memoir. It combines the rigorous research of a journalist with the touching honesty of a woman. This makes a great read for all: the scientist, the humanist, and the regular bloke like me.
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Format: Hardcover
Well written, and a must read for anyone who grew up in Waukegan, IL (as my family did) and surrounding Lake Michigan shore line towns to the north and south. The information in the book could have serious health-related repracussions for the population, past and present,from that specific area.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one those extremely rare books that if you still have a soul will blow you away. The book is short and is written in a readable clear concise manner. The fact that we all go along with the current status quo just proves what cowards we all are. For me, as good as Silent Spring.
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By Barbara on July 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was really interesting and a little scary. My sister and I grew up in Waukegan, My sister died of breast cancer. However, she had a 2nd type of breast cancer as well as lung cancer. Would she still have suffered from three different cancers if we hadn't grown up in Waukegan? Who knows...
Our lakefront never was a pretty place, but we had no idea of the health hazards.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is short and potent. I love books that draw me in with candid personal thread and then reward me with consideration of larger ideas and questions, and Lake Effect does just that. Nancy Nichols masterfully weaves together the story of her and her sister's lives and cancers with a provocative big-picture look at why our society seems unable to make the crucial connections between environmental toxins and health. I've recommended the book to several friends who like smart, well-written books, with a personal angle.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great eye-opening book about my hometown, Waukegan, Illinois, and the effects of toxic waste materials on the towns people. It's a great help when you buy these as used books from seller of Amazon.com.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am from Waukegan and so I was pretty surpised to find out about this book. I went to grade school with Nancy Nichols and remember her well.
She did a lot of research to back up the information she put out in this book.
It was incredibly sad to hear about her sister but I'm very happy she wrote this book.
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