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Review: Toms River

June 20, 2013

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.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
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26 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2013 8:08 am

    I hate reading these books because they make me too upset at knowing there’s nothing one can do about it!

  2. June 20, 2013 8:57 am

    Great review- unfortunately this was way too common in New Jersey during this time period. The Passaic River is one of the most contaminated in the country.

  3. Beth F permalink
    June 20, 2013 9:04 am

    Oh this reminds me of Love Canal! Glad to know the audio was good.

  4. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader permalink
    June 20, 2013 9:06 am

    I have a few friends that live in Toms River. I wonder if they know of this book, I’ll have to ask. Thanks for the great review!

  5. June 20, 2013 9:10 am

    I usually listen to fiction but this sounds like a compelling audio. And with an outstanding narrator, I can see why you were able to listen for 15+ hours!

  6. June 20, 2013 9:47 am

    It is a shame that even after all these years there is so much pollution of our natural resources. Thanks for you review.

  7. June 20, 2013 10:23 am

    My dear NJ..the Garden State and the home of toxic dumps!

  8. June 20, 2013 11:30 am

    I’m so glad you decided to read this book. Even though it made me angry, I found it well worth the time to read it, and I learned quite a bit (some discouraging, some not) as I read the Toms River story. As a person who loves NJ and lived there for some time, I was horrified at the misuse of a beautiful state. (No, NJ is not all like industrial zone along I-95.) Thanks for a great review.

  9. June 20, 2013 12:33 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  10. June 20, 2013 12:57 pm

    We need more books like Toms River! They are weapons in the war on cancer. Terrific review, Kathy!

  11. June 20, 2013 1:28 pm

    Narrative non-fiction are books I really enjoy. There must be many stories like this one with all the pollutants companies have dumped in our rivers.

  12. June 20, 2013 1:46 pm

    You hear stories about this kind of thing happening all the time, and I get so mad! But that is good. I think it is our duty to be aware so we don’t allow it to happen where we live.

  13. June 20, 2013 9:12 pm

    Sounds like a book that would make me angry!

  14. June 20, 2013 9:17 pm

    Sounds like a fascinating worthwhile read/listen. I like environmental stories but don’t get to read them too often.

  15. June 20, 2013 9:24 pm

    That kind of book is always a sad eye opener…15 cd’s sounds daunting!

  16. June 20, 2013 9:55 pm

    This sounds really interesting, and I love that the narration is good, but 15 1/2 hours is a little intimidating I think. Glad you liked it!

  17. June 21, 2013 12:53 am

    15 hours! It sounds interesting but I am finding I like my audios between about 7 and 12 hours unless it is a must listen :)

  18. June 21, 2013 1:14 pm

    Sounds enlightening.

  19. June 21, 2013 1:30 pm

    i remember your telling me about Toms River. New Jersey certainly has its share of cancer clusters, and as a Jersey girl, I can promise you that I have personally been effected by the environmental hazards in this state. I need to read this book. Great review!

  20. June 21, 2013 4:51 pm

    I NEED to read this! I’m an environmental engineer and teach environmental engineering technology at our local technical college. The students always like to hear about real world examples of environmental problems and resolutions. I will definitely be checking this out soon. Thank-you for the great review!

  21. June 21, 2013 9:34 pm

    I felt the same questioning after I read A Civil Action, an old favorite.

  22. June 22, 2013 12:07 am

    This sounds like my kind of book. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this one. I usually prefer audio for narrative non-fiction, so good to hear the audio production was outstanding.

  23. June 22, 2013 3:11 pm

    Isn’t it tragic how companies can and will justify their cavalier way of disposing of harmful waste by-products. I might listen to this one!

  24. bookingmama permalink
    June 24, 2013 10:26 am

    Unbelievable, right? I would probably become even more neurotic if I read this book. I know it made an impact on you based on how much you mentioned it in NY. Always a sign of a good book.

  25. June 26, 2013 11:57 am

    I haven’t heard of this book before but it’s definitely something I’d like to read. These types of stories really interest me.

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