"Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America," Eliza Griswold, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 318 pages, $27.
Eliza Griswold’s sensitive and judicious new book, “Amity and Prosperity” is neither an outraged sermon delivered from a populist soapbox nor a pinched, professorial lecture.
Griswold, a journalist and a poet, paid close attention to a community in southwestern Pennsylvania over the course of seven years to convey its confounding experience with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process that injects water and chemicals deep into the ground in order to shake loose deposits of natural gas.
Amity and Prosperity are the names of two towns where “the history of energy extraction is etched into Appalachian hollows.” The people there are no strangers to industry, including its boons and disasters. Coal, steel and now natural gas.
Griswold arrived on the scene in 2011, a little more than halfway through the decade of the gas rush, when technological advances made fracking cheaper — economically speaking, that is. The ecological costs have proved to be quite dear.
Griswold follows the Haney family over the years as their hope turns to worry and grinding disillusionment. After a series of mysterious illnesses, the Haneys and others try to get help from the state of Pennsylvania and eventually end up in court.
Griswold’s multiple years of reporting convey the slow crawl of accumulating frustrations that eroded trust in government bit by bit. This was Trump country in 2016. The fracking had only opened up deep fissures in the community and created more.
NEW YORK TIMES