Heat and Light: Book summary and reviews of Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh

Heat and Light

by Jennifer Haigh

Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh X
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This ambitious but flawed attempt at a 21st-century Dickensian novel shows how difficult it is to write convincing polemical fiction." - Kirkus

"Heat and Light is a riveting panoramic tale keying... In the spirit of Don DeLillo's Underworld and the novels of Dana Spiotta and Rachel Kushner...a greyhound of a novel; smart, sharp, hyper precise, and near incantatory in its momentum." - Richard Price

"Heat and Light achieves pure novelistic virtuosity. It's brilliant beginning to end." - Richard Ford

"Paragraph by paragraph, the prose is full of marvelous texture and material sensation. Heat and Light is an intricate and ambitious novel, firmly grounded in history and our time. The narrator's encyclopedic knowledge and keen insights about the physical world and social life make the novel a thrilling page turner." - Ha Jin, National Book Award-winning author of Waiting

"This is an unsparing book, and one that sings." - Joshua Ferris, author of The We Came To The End

This information about Heat and Light was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Diane S.

Heat and Light
Long time readers of this author knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult subjects, instead she tackles them head on. In this one she return to Bakerton, Pennsylvania whose glory days are gone. One know for their Bakerton coal, the town is now in its death throes. Many had left, stores and businesses are dying and then seemingly from nowhere they are given an opportunity. Natural gas companies come to town and all they have to do is sign on the dotted line. Instant money to allow drilling, paid by the acre, easy money or so they think. Just sign, don't read the contract, just so happy for a way our of debt, a way to get ahead.

Fracking, fossil fuels, our endless demand for cheaper energy. Many of these characters are familiar from her previous books set in this town. But now we see the human cost of fracking, costs on characters that are now in over their head. We see the greed of the companies out to make a buck, not caring what it does to the environment or the people. Extensive research, much is learned about this horrible practice, Colorado and Wyoming have now been mostly cracked out. Three mile island and its devastation are referred to, its consequences horrific. Environmental illnesses and injuries, things we don't understand. All encompassed by the people of Beaverton, people trying to live their lives, some great characters, some hard to like, but this personal touch makes it all very real. Supporters, lawyers, protesters, all sides. People who have owned farms for years, now at risk.

At times Haigh came awfully close to being preachy, but sometimes that is what it takes to relate a subject so important. There is one part, near the end that I wished she had left out. Felt it wasn't necessary to the plot and really didn't fit but other than that this was a very good story. A very important one.

Readalike, Secret Wisdom of the earth.

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Author Information

Jennifer Haigh Author Biography

Photo: Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Jennifer Haigh is the author of the short-story collection News from Heaven and six bestselling and critically acclaimed novels, including Mrs. Kimble, Faith and Heat and Light, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and NPR. Her books have won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Massachusetts Book Award and the PEN New England Award in Fiction, and have been translated widely. She lives in New England.

Author Interview
Link to Jennifer Haigh's Website

Name Pronunciation
Jennifer Haigh: The h on the end is silent, so pronounced haig

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