It takes a long time to go from research > writing > endless revisions > beta readers > more revisions > an agent > editor > a publisher > marketing before a novel arrives at your bookstore. It’s not often that an author can do this using a current topic. But this novel is so opportune – Jennifer Haigh’s Heat and Light is right on time.
Starting with the blurb on the cover by my favorite author, Richard Ford, I was sold by his praise. Only a few pages in and I was hooked spending way too many nights reading just one more chapter. One of the single best measures of the success of a book in my mind.
Heat and Light is about farmers and neighbors barely making it who lease their land for fracking to a myriad of subcontractors they never meet. It’s about the people in the town and how they come to realize what is happening to their land and their health. It’s also about the boom/bust workers who come for the well-paying jobs. The conflict and tension between the two populations is one of the key stories of our time.
Jennifer Haigh manages to help the reader decide for themselves—is it worth it? Some folks in the novel are getting rich, some are suffering, and those in the middle have yet to decide if they made a good decision or not. Depending upon where you live, this could be a decision you might have to personally make or advocate for or against in your state.
Whether, as a reader, you love or hate or are indifferent to fracking, you will be held by her fine writing, her level of research, and the ability to make interesting (late into the night) a complicated industrial procedure. I couldn’t believe that I read every word.
Heat and Light is another book that uses geography and culture as vibrant characters in the novel. The human characters are all well developed and have their own story arc, but there’s something about our natural resources that aren’t given a voice the way that Jennifer Haigh is able to do. She has other books that I am looking forward to reading as well. It’s so exciting to find new authors that can marry fact and fiction so well. Heat and Light does that and so much more. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.
We’re just learning about the pros and cons of fracking. This link might shed some light on why we are still mostly in the dark.