Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh
Bakerton, Pennsylvania was in the center of coal country and when the mines were open Bakerton flourished. The mine has been closed for years and unemployment and shuttered businesses are almost all that is left of Bakerton. There are a few farms, and the nearby prison provides some good jobs, but besides the local bar there isn’t much else in Bakerton which is why meth has moved into town. Then the natural gas companies arrive. Bakerton sits atop the Marcellus Shale and gas companies want to extract these natural resources through fracking. Now residents are hurrying to sign leases giving the gas companies access to the land under their land; after all they aren’t doing anything with it so why not make some money? Things could finally be looking up for Bakerton…or are they?
The nickname for this book already is “that fracking book” but it’s not really about fracking. It’s about how a community deals with their everyday once the rigs come to town. The land leases seemed too good to be true, and many residents are finding that is the case. Traffic, noise, water contamination and other issues plague members of the community and their relationships with one another.
There are a lot of different stories followed here, not just the plight of one household, which is what made it so interesting. Also the wide reaching effects of drilling in the area, even if your land is not leased to the gas companies. Energy and how we get it is the core of the book, touching on coal, gas and even nuclear energy, all of which have made their mark on Pennsylvania, but it is the personal stories and experiences in this small town that happens to be placed in resource rich country that made such a great read.