Lamar Herrin is a writer who I probably should have known about before now. He has written six novels, has had short fiction published in all the right places and taught Creative Writing at Cornell. Yet, I must admit that I had never heard of him before I picked up Fractures.
Given what I have read about Herrin’s background, I am not sure that this is the most representative of his works. More than anything else Fractures appears to have been written with a very clear agenda: to explore the ultimately negative impact fracking for natural gas has on a family, a community and the environment. Although Herrin attempts to show multiple perspectives in his narrative, the novel comes off as an indictment of the fracking that is now taking place in parts of the United States.
Putting Herrin’s political views aside, Fractures was also a story of a fractured family, a patriarch and his slightly dysfunctional offspring. The family angle he brings in has garnered comparisons to The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, though I would not put the two in the same category. I found the characters to be weak, almost stereotypes. Their names did not help the situation either: there was a Jenny, her boyfriend Kenny and son Danny. All sounds a little too similar for my tastes.
If you do pick up Fractures, the ending will not disappoint. In fact, it and the opening scene were the sole factors that redeemed the novel in my eyes. It is here more than any other place that I believe Herrin lives up to his reputation. The imagery, writing and tension is unparalleled in the rest of the book.
Who would like this book? Fractures could very well make a good book club pick. The topic is very timely and everyone seems to have something to say about fracking, the environment and energy consumption. The novel has an agenda, and depending on where you stand on such issues it could provide some heated debate. It would be a fascinating read for a car trip in the area of the Marcellus Shale, that is New York state, Pennsylvania down to Virginia. Fractures also paints a very real picture of America in times of transition. In years to come it may be interesting to read this novel to see what we were like.