Libby, Montana: Asbestos and the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation by Andrea Peacock (244 pgs) 2003
A great author can make you not just care about the people they introduce, but actually feel like you know them, make it feel a personal loss when they are gone. It’s an expecially rare talent for non-fiction.
With this book, I felt like I was sitting around my Grandpa’s kitchen table sharing stories of “I remember when…”. A judicious use of direct quotes, placed in their larger context enables the story to resonate in a particularly immediate way. And the personal family experiences make the story of the decades-long poisoning of a small Montana town by the W.R. Grace Asbestos company that much more tragic.
I was reminded of a photo-essay book I stumbled across and fell in love with, The Alpine Tavern by James Cloutier. It contains photos of folks in a small Oregon town. Genuine, down-home folks, whose lives are etched in the lines on their faces. You feel like you know, and like, these people. In Libby, Montana it’s the same. You can’t turn away from the fact that these are real families whose lifes were destoyed for generations. And the loss feels personal.