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Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh
Literary fiction

Heat & Light

by Jennifer Haigh

Quick take

As entertaining as it is important and gorgeously it's written, how humane and relatable the characters are, how much we the readers root for justice and redemption.

Why I love it

Leigh Haber
O, The Oprah Magazine

Readers, have you ever read the novels of Sinclair Lewis? He was the first American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. His so-called "social novels," such as Arrowsmith, Dodsworth, Elmer Gantry, were critiques of capitalism, in particular how the working classes were exploited in the process of industrialization. Okay, maybe that description makes the novels sound like boring political screeds but they were anything but. Their characters were vibrant and memorable, the plots gripping. And they were urgent, timely – even essential.

So what does this have to do with Jennifer Haigh's Heat and Light? In my opinion, this novel, set in a former coal town in Pennsylvania, is very much in the Lewis tradition. Haigh's page-turning, masterful story uses the controversial topic of "fracking" - a modern method of drilling for natural gas that carries certain environmental risks - to probe how those who are left behind in the name of progress often get taken advantage of - even at times participating willingly in the forces that threaten their lives and livelihoods.

If that sounds grim, it's because there is a lot at stake in this novel. People who are struggling financially see a chance to get ahead by allowing the land they own to get contaminated. But what keeps the book from being doctrinaire is how gorgeously it's written, how humane and relatable the characters are, how much we the readers root for justice and redemption. And like Lewis' work, Haigh's book is as entertaining as it is important and necessary.

What do I want in a book? Something that not only entertains me but does more than that too. I want a book to make me think, to teach me something new, and to open my mind, which is why I am so proud to endorse Jennifer Haigh's Heat and Light.

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Member thoughts

All (162)
All (162)
Love (58)
Like (81)
Dislike (23)
189 ratings
  • 31% Love
  • 43% Like
  • 12% Dislike
  • Pasadena, CA

    Complex characters I wanted to keep reading about and absolutely beautiful writing. The impacts of fracking on the lives of those in proximity to it were thoughtfully and provocatively told.

  • Georgetown, MA

    Really enjoyed this. I was left knowing more about a sub-culture of mining and the devastation it can bring to unassuming, vulnerable rural America. Characters were real and touching.

  • Prescott , AZ

    This was a wonderful read. I love when author's use fiction to address true life issues. The character's lives are as complex as the fracking. It gave me a lot to think about.

  • Cleveland, TX

    I LOVE Jennifer Haigh. Her book Faith is one of my all-tome favorites! This was an interesting read about a topic that i knew nothing aboit. She is a great story teller!

  • Austin, TX

    Big fan of Jennifer Haigh's writing.......felt like I got an education on fracking and got to go down memory lane with the references to 3 Mile Island.

  • Concord, NH

    In reviewing this nearly a year later, I still think about these characters and this story. So thought provoking and relevant.

  • Kansas City, MO

    Heat & Light was absolutely fantastic. It takes a look at the human costs of energy with surprisingly deep characters.

  • New Orleans, LA

    Loved this book!! Great story!!! I loved how the author made the characters so believable! Could not put down!

  • Houston, TX

    I liked all the characters, and I liked how this was an "issues" book about an important topic.

  • Beaverton, OR

    Loved this book so much. A beautiful story surrounding a complex and polarizing subject.

  • APO, AE

    A really interesting, personal take on a very modern issue.

  • Severn, MD

    Very strong message that stuck with me for a long time.

  • Carlisle, PA


  • Hamden, CT

  • beacon, NY

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  • Glencoe, AL

  • Silver Spring, MD

  • Mount Vernon, WA

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