As entertaining as it is important and necessary...how 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
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.