Title: Toms River
Author: Judith Frank
Source: from publisher via NetGalley
Review Summary: This book was engaging and easy to follow, a perfect mix of science, history, and human interest stories.
Toms River had been a dumping ground for chemical pollutants for years before anyone suspected anything might be wrong. However, watchful parents soon noticed a disturbing increase in local cancer cases. It took years of unceasing efforts by residents for an investigation of chemical dumping in Toms River to begin. Even then, it was difficult to impossible to determine the different chemicals dumped in Toms River over the past half century and even more difficult to determine whether that dumping influence cancer incidence. Although families were convinced pollutants were the problem and a settlement was reached, the exact nature of the pollutants dumped at Toms River and their relationship to cancer there may never be known.
Sophie at Paper Breathers enthusiastically recommended Toms River and I’m glad I listened to her, because now I can wholeheartedly second her recommendation. The writing of Toms River was immediately engaging, focusing on the personal side of every part of the story. The events in Toms River unfold in parallel with details about the history of the pollutants dumped there and of regulation (or lack there of) of corporate dumping throughout history. Both sides of the story were equally fascinating and complimented one another well. Both stories included a large number of characters, but the author included enough reminders about who previously introduced characters were that it was easy to keep track of everyone.
Although I obviously sympathize more with the families than the people dumping pollutants, I think the author did a good job explaining the perspectives of the people who did the dumping. He also did an incredible job simplifying the statistics involved in trying to determine if the pollutants dumped in Toms River were responsible for causing a cancer cluster there. I thought he was fair and objective when presenting the arguments for and against Toms River being a true cancer cluster. He also did a nice job wrapping up everything related to the case. Personally I loved the mix of science, history, and personal stories in this book. Such a good mix of science and history and stories! Definitely a good pick for fans of books about the history of science or narrative nonfiction, but also a book I’d recommend to fans of CSI-like shows or conspiracy theories.