Genre: Adult Fiction
Series: A sequel is planned.
Source: Provided in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
“It was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, not economic data, that turned the page on slavery. It was The Grapes of Wrath, not demographic reports that opened a nation’s eyes to Dust Bowl dislocation. Out of that tradition comes Michael J. Fitzgerald’s The Fracking War. Here, within a smoldering crucible of social crisis, is a tale of power, money, fateful choices, and consciences aroused. If you like your drill rigs served up within the context of a fast-moving plot line, you’ve got what you want right in your hands.”
—Sandra Steingraber, author, Living Downstream and Raising Elijah
In The Fracking War, veteran investigative reporter Jack Stafford relocates from California to rural Upstate New York to take a job with a small weekly newspaper after the death of his wife, and immediately discovers a citizen rebellion that models itself after Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. In The Fracking War, activists use sabotage to defend their land and lifestyle against what they perceive as industrial terrorism, perpetrated by multinational corporations’ environmentally damaging practice of hydrofracking for natural gas and oil.
Set in the pristine Finger Lakes wine country of New York and neighboring Pennsylvania, Stafford and the newspaper staff witness the tragic impacts of fracking on local citizens and their communities—the health risks, water and air pollution, and a rapid increase in crime.
The fictional events in The Fracking War were pulled from newspaper headlines and other documented occurrences not only in the Northeast United States but also across the globe. The fast-paced novel offers a glimpse into an escalating conflict between citizens who want to protect their communities and the nearly out-of-control expansion of the natural gas industry’s controversial method of hydrofracking to extract natural gas, affecting homes and communities in uncharted ways.
Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, said of The Fracking War: “If you’ve thought the debate over energy policy was a tad dry, this novel might change your mind. God hopes it never comes to this!”
I spent five years living in Pennsylvania, so I’ve seen first-hand how hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) can contaminate drinking water. Mine never caught on fire, but we tested it every few months just to make sure and no one drank it. No one I knew even let their pets drink tap water. So I was familiar with the issue when I picked up the book. And considering the recent accident at the Marcellus Shale natural gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania, this book could not be more timely.
You can definitely tell that Michael J. Fitzgerald has worked as a journalist. His prose is rich and attentive to detail, with meticulous effort used to set the scene. This style definitely served to give the reader a better sense of the atmosphere of the Finger Lakes, anchoring the story in this lush setting, and with the people who inhabit it. At the same time, the setting feels universal, which I’m sure was intentional, as fracking is occurring all over the country.
The events of the book feel ripped from the headlines, and it’s easy while reading to forget that the book is fiction. I think this was an effective technique. A lot of nonfiction has been penned and filmed on the subject of fracking, but with the exception of Gasland, not much of it has hit home with most people. Ficti0n helps us connect, and if that was the author’s intention – to connect the reader to the characters, and therefore to their situation, then he has definitely succeeded.