Review: Heat and Light
Once a booming town, Bakertown, Pennsylvania lost it’s hope and prosperity when the coal mines closed. When it’s discovered the town sits on a deposit of natural gas, the energy companies make their move and come in to buy the rights to drill for that gas. Most people are eager to sell – it feels like an answer to their prayers – but others have their reasons for holding out.
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh is her latest book set in the fictional coal town of Bakerton. Coal is out and the town and its residents have fallen on hard times. Most people don’t know how they’re going to pay their bills. When the energy companies come in and offer them money just for the rights to drill on their land, it seems like their luck has turned around. Some residents question the practice of horizontal drilling (often called fracking), though, and hold out. They all discover there are no easy answers.
Told from multiple points of view, Heat and Light is a fascinating story that explores our methods of extracting energy and the price we pay for them. Prison guard Rich Devlin is eager to sell his gas rights to finance the farm he’s always dreamed of but organic farmers Rena and Mack are cautious because they wonder how it will affect their cattle.
Haigh’s writing and story telling are outstanding and once I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. I had heard of fracking but didn’t know much about it and was happy to learn more. As I read the book, I found myself researching the subject even more. I love the way Haigh weaves issues into the lives of ordinary people – people that are easy to relate to. I was eager to talk about the book and it gave me a lot to think about so I think it would be an excellent book club selection. Whether you’re in a book club or not, be sure to pick this book up!