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Adult/High School -Shirley is a small, working-class town on Long Island, NY. In the 1950s, Walter T. Shirley, a retired vaudeville huckster, established it as a place where people tired of big-city life could settle down and return to small-town values. McMasters called it home for most of her childhood. She takes the tools of memoir, local history, and science writing to create a disturbing yet loving portrait of the community. The town grew without a plan and never really took off; it faced constant problems with unemployment, poor services, and even an unhealthy atmosphere. Its backdrop is the Brookhaven National Laboratory, a government-funded facility that specializes in energy and medical research. In the 1990s, the lab mistakenly leaked tritium into Shirley's groundwater supply, sparking a lawsuit as many felt the town's unusual number of cancer victims were related to Brookhaven's experiments. McMasters's style simplifies the complicated subjects of environmental science and economics into easily understood explorations of her own life. The personal moments are powerful, particularly the illness and death of her next-door neighbor, caused by exposure to Brookhaven's chemicals. The book includes maps and references that expand on the information-packed narrative. Readers with an interest in the environment will be haunted by much that's in here, while McMasters's love for Shirley might spur some to appreciate and even protect their own hometown.-Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
"All places are mute till someone speaks for them—this book bears marvelous, scalding witness to the kind of horror that's been repeated in so many spots that we've almost gone numb. But no one will be numb after reading this account."—Bill McKibben
"Welcome to Shirley is an uplifting and disturbing tour of deep nostalgia for home and an entrenched institution that earns its designation as a Superfund site. McMasters slips along the fine edge between the personal and the journalistic; between profound nostalgia—she loves this place, and longs for it—and an adult reckoning with the realities of her gritty town. McMasters' voice is devastating in its clarity and urgency and great tenderness."—Meredith Hall, author, Without a Map
Posted May 1, 2009
I could not put this book down!! The book starts out as a poignant story of a typical Long Island childhood (one that touched my heart and filled me with memories of my own childhood on Long Island), that, by chapter 3, runs parallel to the story of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and its negative effects to our environment. The story is both heartwarming and chilling and McMaster's writing style is captivating!!! I have referred this book to several people already who also felt as I did about it! What a story!!! It makes one feel the need to get involved in environmental advocacy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2009
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