Review: Toms River
Toms River, New Jersey was a sleepy little town that was mostly known for tourism. The economy struggled so it seemed to be an answer to a prayer when chemical and dye manufacturer Ciba-Geigy came to town in the 1950s. They brought new residents and good paying jobs with them, so they were welcomed with open arms. They weren’t careful with the disposal of their waste, though, and eventually other chemical companies followed their lead, using Toms River as a dumping ground for all kinds of toxic chemicals.
Several years later, parents, nurses, and residents noticed a disturbing childhood cancer cluster that was eventually linked to the indiscriminate dumping of those toxic wastes. Not all of the residents were convinced by the findings, though, and it caused some divisions in the town. Toms River, by Dan Fagin, is the story of a community and its battle with corporate giants.
It’s obvious that Dan Fagin has a background in environmental writing – Toms River is very detailed and includes a lot of scientific research. Not only does Fagin tell the story of Toms River and its residents, he includes details of scientists who first linked cancers to chemicals and pollutants. He has really done his homework on this book – it’s thoroughly researched and intricately detailed. What makes this book worth reading though, is the human side of the story. Fagin tells the story of the children, their parents, and their caregivers through this harrowing time. The book is at times fascinating and at other times a bit too scientific but, overall, well worth reading. It serves as an example of what corporations will do for the bottom line and what consumers are willing to sacrifice for the goods they desire. It will make readers think twice about the air they breath, the water they drink, and the goods they purchase. This is an eye opening book!
I listened to the audio version of Toms River which is narrated by Dan Woren. Woren does an outstanding job with the narration - he kept me fully invested in the story even when it was over my head. The audio is on 15 CDs and lasts approximately 15 and a half hours. You’ll want to read this book if you enjoy science or narrative non-fiction.