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Heat & Light

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  1,888 Ratings  ·  360 Reviews
Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers, in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its heart—a bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families.

Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Ecco
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Applehillcottage As an unpublished writer who is 80% finished with a similar book -- rural Pennsylvania, multiple characters involved in an environmental/political…moreAs an unpublished writer who is 80% finished with a similar book -- rural Pennsylvania, multiple characters involved in an environmental/political issue in which the little people stand to lose -- I read this book with interest (and holding my breath). She's a great writer with many prizes, and who am I? But I worried myself that I have too many characters and the multiple point of views keep the reader from really getting to know anyone really well. So your comment is interesting. The thing that surprised me was that I didn't really like many of her characters at all. I kept reading, just because. Her writing is great, and they do mostly tie in at the end, but still...(less)

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May 23, 2016 Elyse rated it really liked it
$1.99 Kindle special today! If you are interested in this topic --This book very well written!!! An excellent price. (it must break the authors heart to be selling so low).

Fracking is very much a part of this novel. So, before I read this book -
.....(hard copy)...I spent some time talking about the pros and cons with my friend Comet ... ( a pool visitor & book buddy). It was a useful conversation.

Given the timely subject - book clubs might want to consider choosing "Heat and Light".
Diane S ☔
Nov 09, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Long time readers of this author knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult subjects, instead she tackles them head on. In this one she return to Bakerton, Pennsylvania whose glory days are gone. One know for their Bakerton coal, the town is now in its death throes. Many had left, stores and businesses are dying and then seemingly from nowhere they are given an opportunity. Natural gas companies come to town and all they have to do is sign on the dotted line. Instant money to allow drilling, ...more
Jennifer Haigh is not a flashy writer. Her prose, while elegant, does not resort to pyrotechnics to dazzle you. This book isn't a powerhouse because of fancy narrative tricks (though it has one or two up its sleeve) or magical realism or any of a thousand other writerly sleights of hand. No this is a big book because she blocks and tackles the story and characters so that all the pieces fit together to tell a story about the impact our need for fossil fuels has on people, communities and our phy ...more
May 21, 2016 Alena rated it liked it
The mentions of the game Mousetrap throughout this novel were spot-on because I've always found that game unnecessarily complicated with too many moving pieces. This novel too, is about so many issues - fracking, activism, community, the economy, addiction, sexual orientation, incarceration, scientific inquiry -- on top of the characters' stories of loneliness, desperation, need. Even the robust 427 pages weren't enough to cover it all.

Don't get me wrong. Haigh is an incredibly talented author.
Sep 25, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it
It took me a hot minute (no pun intended) to get into this one, but I got there in the end and it was worth the effort. It's an important story to tell about environmentalism, activism, the dangers of fracking, small-town vs. big business mentalities, and the vagaries of human nature and behavior, especially relevant for society today. It also stars the Everyman, the average working class nobodies and their families, and thus was uniquely presented.

I couldn't give it a full five stars - not beca
May 11, 2016 Eileen rated it really liked it
Dark, dreary, harsh, sometimes coarse – these adjectives apply here. I almost bailed out at one point, but it’s painful to turn down a book by this author! She paints such vivid pictures of the flawed individuals who drive the plot, and what a sense of place! The following description of woods soon to be leveled by the encroaching wheels of progress is so very affecting!

“The forest is a century old, mixed hardwoods, trunks thick as rain barrels – the childhood gymnasium of four generations, pri
Rachel León
Dec 16, 2016 Rachel León rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
A Facebook poll asked to name a novel that didn't receive nearly enough recognition this year. My vote was Rae Meadow's I WILL SEND RAIN, but Jennifer Haigh's new novel could be a close second. I enjoyed Haigh's prose and this ambitious story. It's a social novel dealing with environmental issues, but it didn't feel heavy handed to me. Rather it felt skillful. This one is definitely worth checking out.
May 31, 2016 Obsidian rated it did not like it
I really did enjoy Jennifer Haigh's "Mrs. Kimble" but this is the second book by Haigh that I could not get though. Heat & Light drags. It drags and drags and I just don't care what happens to anyone.

Taking place in the town of Bakertown, "Heat & Light" showcases the changes the town experiences after a natural gas deposit is found.

I really can't tell you much more than that. There were characters whose names I am blanking on. Some of the book followed some of the characters and then it
High Plains Library District
May 31, 2016 High Plains Library District rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, cindy
Picture four people sitting at a square table, one on each side, working on a puzzle. Each of them will have a unique perspective on the incomplete image in the center of the table; a different side, a different angle, but all the pieces and perspectives are interconnected. Now, double that—make it an octagon, or square the square for sixteen individual, but interrelated, views. Each new angle also means more overlap, more interaction between the participants. In that image you find a metaphor f ...more
Apr 27, 2016 Beverly rated it it was amazing
Well done, complicated, sympathetic and painful exploration of a dying town, rough economy, and relationships by coincidence. Having enjoyed two of Haigh's earlier books, I was looking forward to this one. She's created both a panoramic and microscopic look at what happens when there are no jobs and people 'do what they've got to do to survive,' which, at the bottom, seems to be wind up on meth.

I'd hate to see this book summed up as All You Need To Know About Fracking, when the humanity of it en
Emma Clement
Apr 08, 2016 Emma Clement rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Here it is:

As a civil and environmental engineering student who goes to college in PA, I am very familiar with the Marcellus Shale. As a result, this book really interested me! I really liked how this book was about the Marcellus shale, coal, and electricity, but told a story (as opposed to just telling the facts about these issues in a dry, nonfiction book). I was drawn into this novel fairly quickly, as the author takes you
Mar 05, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing
I loved this complex, multilayered drama about the residents of a rural Pennsylvania town caught up in the fracking boom. Haigh resists easy answers or condemnations, instead showing us nuanced, human perspectives on a controversial issue. Very well done!
Feb 25, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing
I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

This review has been difficult to formulate, not because of concerns with the caliber of the book but because I’d like to do it justice. With the setting and underlying themes, Ms. Haigh has managed to not only explore her characters with empathy for even minor players but to have their lives reflect so many issues facing us today. This is what good fiction is all about, isn’t it? You become involved in someone else’s story and think more deeply about
Sep 23, 2016 Judith rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book about energy and there are lots of side stories here including the 3-mile island catastrophe. I felt like I really got an education at the same time I was entertained by the interesting plot, characters, and setting. The main story is about a small town in Pennsylvania that was first exploited for coal and when that died out the town dried up; but now it's being exploited for natural gas. I really didn't understand what fracking was till I read this book. The search f ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
A new Jennifer Haigh!! I didn't know! Can't wait!

Returning to Bakerton, Pennsylvania—the setting for the 2005 best-selling novel Baker Towers—author Jennifer Haigh again focuses on an energy source and its effects on a small community. For decades, coal fueled Bakerton and the country. In this town, multiple generations worked in the coal mines. Few left to pursue higher education or a different path. Bakerton sits on the Marcellus Shale, a huge natural gas deposit. Tapping into this natural gas source utilizes questionable techniques and coul
Chris Pavone
Jan 17, 2017 Chris Pavone rated it it was amazing
In 2016 I read a lot of wonderful crime fiction; on the other hand, it was not a great year for me on the literary-fiction front. But 2016 finished up very strong with my pre-Christmas read of HEAT AND LIGHT, perhaps my favorite novel of the year, with such a richness of absolutely everything--of sympathetic character and poetic language, pathos and insight, even humor and excitement. I think it's a remarkable novel about what it means to be an American, and an important piece of literature for ...more
Patty Shlonsky
May 20, 2016 Patty Shlonsky rated it liked it
Heat and Light is a story about small town life in Pennsylvania, the impact of fracking and other energy extraction activities and the hypocrisy and opportunism on both sides of the energy debate.

Rich Devlin has spent his entire life in Bakerton, Pennsylvania and works as a prison guard and sometime bartender at his father's bar. Rich's goal is to farm the land once farmed by his grandfather and he buys out the interests of his brother and sister, but does not have the financial means to get the
Martie Nees Record
Oct 12, 2016 Martie Nees Record rated it really liked it
Haigh is one of my favorite authors. She is an extremely gifted storyteller. I have enjoyed all her books, from 2003's "Mrs. Kimble" to "Faith", 2011. "Heat & Light" is a sequel to "Baker Towers," a 2005 novel that was considered a modern classic about a coal mining town in Pennsylvania during the 1940s. The community was composed of company houses and church festivals and firemen's parades (think the movie "Picnic"). But of course, due to the nature of the men’s work it was also filled with ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Jul 21, 2016 Robert Blumenthal rated it it was amazing
This novel deals with the process known as fracking and all the aspects of what it means to the US and to the people living near where it is being done. It has been quite controversial, being touted as a temporary (at least) solution to our burning of coal, though recent studies are showing a much larger than anticipated release of methane, mostly due to shoddy work on the part of the corporations that are in charge (what else is new), which is awful for accelerating the devastating effects of c ...more
May 15, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Heat & Light is stunning and panoramic in scope. Jennifer Haigh shows us another side of Bakerton -- of the industries that provide resources we need to survive; yet are destroying our small towns and arguably poisoning us. Heat and Light examines all of these angles from the oil brokers to the landowners who are trying to build a future for their families to the contractors who live away from their families. Is fracking and environmental devastation of resources our legacy? Is a desperate p ...more
May 14, 2016 Korey rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Haigh is a national treasure. I could write my own novel gushing about how great this book is. It is truly spectacular. When my husband saw me glued to this book, riveted by every word, he asked me what it was about. I paused and said "it's about fracking, but really it's about everything."

Haigh masterfully makes this book feel intimate and epic at the same time. This is a careful, detailed character study that unpeels each character like an onion. This is a work that also bursts with a
May 01, 2016 Erin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-read, favorites
Based on its description, I never would have picked this book up and chosen to read it. Something about the review for the Book of the Month club drew me to it, though, and I'm so glad I picked it. On the surface, the book is about drilling for oil in Pennsylvania; at least, it's what ties everyone in the book together. But what it's really about is the characters--how they're connected, what they see, think, feel. I loved getting to know them. I also really enjoyed Haigh's writing style. I look ...more
Connie Regan
May 24, 2016 Connie Regan rated it really liked it
A former coal mining Pennsylvania town is upended by the possibility of personal and community recovery. Landowners sign their mineral rights away as promises are made by natural gas companies.
The consequences, health dangers, noise and disruption are examined through diverse, compelling characters. This is a current issue that I knew little about and kept me turning the pages.
Gary Branson
May 30, 2016 Gary Branson rated it liked it
This one was all over the place... It's a quick read, just didn't seem cohesive. Couldn't find anyone to really connect with, nor did any character seem that well developed.
Ayelet Waldman
Jul 29, 2016 Ayelet Waldman rated it it was amazing
She's such an amazing writer. Woefully under appreciated.
Dec 14, 2016 Sherry rated it really liked it
I saw this on a best of list (it's the most wonderful time of the year!!!!!) and the topic intrigued me of course but more than that what I read about her writing. And I loved it. I did. Will I be pressing it in your hand? Probably not. You may not appreciate her writing style, or the topic but I enjoyed all of it. It's not on every best of but it's on some outliers. And that's where the joy is because you most likely haven't seen this screaming at you all year from the book stands thinking fine ...more
May 05, 2016 Patricia rated it really liked it
A plot taking a deep dive into the destruction caused by the energy world of drilling, fracking, nuclear plants and the Three Mile Island disaster, people selling their souls and land rights to make a quick buck to the drilling companies and their being shocked when their land is denuded of trees and the water table contaminated with methane gas all in the pursuit of heat and light (a.k.a. petroleum).
A wide cast of characters focused on Rich and Shelby Devlin who sell access rights onto their fa
May 09, 2016 Kris rated it it was amazing
An excellent entry point in to the fracking conversation, Haigh provides us with a rich cast of characters, each playing his/her role in this story that reveals the political, social, and economic dynamics of the fracking industry. The coal-stripped Bakerton is the backdrop on which stories of poverty-related trauma play out. Anyone who lives in a depressed factory/energy town can relate to these stories and these characters, who seem to be suffering from collective PTSD. Each owns her/her traum ...more
Jun 27, 2016 Karyl rated it really liked it
This is an epic, sweeping novel, detailing what fracking can do to a town, its environment, and its people. It's not a pretty picture, but the reader has a great deal of sympathy for the residents of Bakerton, a town slowly sliding into irretrievable decline. When the coal was gone, and the mines shut, what else was there to do for the residents? Natural gas is discovered, and now there's hope for a new influx of cash flow -- but all is not as it seems.

This is a story of people trying to make th
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Jennifer Haigh is an American novelist and short story writer. Her new novel, HEAT AND LIGHT (Ecco, 2016), looks at a Pennsylvania town divided by the controversy over fracking. Her last novel, FAITH, about a beloved Boston priest accused of a molesting a child in his parish, explores the consequences of this accusation for an entire community.

Haigh's critically acclaimed debut novel MRS. KIMBLE
More about Jennifer Haigh...

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