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Heat and Light: A Novel Paperback – February 28, 2017
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2016: When an author can tell a beautiful and compelling story about fracking, well, you know you are in the presence of something special. Set in the decaying Pennsylvania town of Appalachia, situated over a natural gas deposit, Haigh brings together a host of endearing characters to tell a surprisingly poignant story about passion, the world today, and so many of the details in between. This is one of those books that catches you off guard with a powerful message--not overpowering or in your face, just perfectly…there. --Penny Mann --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
For her excellent sixth work of fiction, Haigh (The Condition) returns to the mortally wounded mining town of Bakerton, Pa., peopled by unsettled folks whose ennui seems genetic, even in the wake of what might be a renaissance as the town begins exploiting a massive deposit of natural gas. Prison guard Rich Devlin signs over the mineral rights to his Pap's farm, hoping for a better life for himself, his wife, Shelby, and their chronically ill daughter, Olivia. Pastor Jess, the widow of Pastor Wes, counsels the hypochondriac Shelby, but begins to unravel herself as she becomes involved with Herc, a member of the Texan drilling crew whom the townspeople resent as noisy outsiders. The Devlins' neighbors, Mack and Rena, are organic dairy farmers whose customers begin to fall away as rumor spreads of contamination from the new drilling. And Gia, the waitress at Rich's dad's bar, has a drug problem that no one but Rich's brother, Darren, a recovering addict himself, can see. The author has deftly, and with few false notes, created a geography of connections among the townspeople, who are brothers, daughters, high school sweethearts, and strangers. Haigh has conjured stories of great consequence out of rural Pennsylvania, observing that "more than most places, Pennsylvania is what lies beneath." She has tapped the deep well of the human condition and relayed something profound about America at the turn of the 21st century. (May)\n --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
It's a topic that deserves serious attention and the novel Is informative without being didactic.
The author spares few details in portraying the lives and past history of her characters. In fact, in some instances this detail detracts from the momentum of her story. Unfortunately, most of the characters are not particularly likeable or compelling and they suffer from a lack of redeeming qualities.
At times, this story meanders and can't stay on track toward a conclusion. Its realism builds credibility but the overall perspective smacks of cynicism.
This book was more disappointing than rewarding.
I wouldn't characterize this book as "anti-fracking" although it does take a pretty negative view of it, based pretty much in the fact and reality of it.
I was enthralled by this book and finished it in a weekend. I'm looking forward to picking up some of the author's other titles.
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.
My only reason for not giving it a 5 - is that I would've enjoyed it even more if it was even more detailed and longer - being an O'Hara fan -I tend to want to 'fall in love' with characters.
For those curious about this region of the country I would also recommend reading any of Tami O'Dell's novels.
I will be reading Jennifer's other work - her quality of writing is remarkable.
Most recent customer reviews
Expected more, especially the ending. Story just sort of wandered around and then ended.