Heat and Light

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Heat and Light
448 pages; Ecco
With her virtuosic, unapologetically political novel Heat and Light, Jennifer Haigh indicts the reckless pursuit of profits in a tale filled with characters bound by hope, greed, and desire. When a conglomerate wielding lucrative contracts for drilling rights rolls into a depressed former coal town sitting on a massive deposit of natural gas, the politics of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, turn personal. Bakerton, Pennsylvania, has been defined for generations by its natural resources. It thrived during the coal boom, then withered when the mines closed. Now, decades later, landowners must decide whether to succumb to or resist the seduction of promised prosperity. Haigh portrays a community again exploited and outmatched by outside forces—and complicit in its own fate. Given its subject matter, the book could easily have turned preachy. But each page glimmers with observations so singular ("When you quit drugs, you learn how long a day is"), the narrative never gets bogged down by the message. Sweeping yet intimate, Heat and Light is an exemplar of fiction's capacity to awaken us to truth.
— Karen Holt