-Allen Mendenhall, Southern Literary Review
"Lehmann...[is] a delightful, complicated character..."
"Melissa Fischer celebrates in precise and brilliant prose the steadfast and innovative heart of the engineer - harnessing technology in service to humanity; yet, with equal clarity and sincerity, Fischer mourns the tragedy of engineers complicit in the destruction of the environment and the concomitant desecration of the human spirit."
- DR. KARL LONGLEY, PE, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering, California State University, Fresno; Chair, California Central Valley Water Quality Control Board
"Melissa Fischer conveys in poetry what cannot be truthfully expressed in prose. It made me sad to reach the end. I will certainly read it again."
- W. E. ABRAHAM, author of The Mind of Africa; Advisor to President Kwame Nkrumah
"The Advocacy is both a beautiful and disturbing story; exactly what good books are supposed to be."
- JUDY REEVES, author of Wild Women, Wild Voices
"This is a novel of the intellect, where Fischer grapples with the meaning of our shared colonial history and how far our responsibility as global citizens extends."
- GABRIEL BRANDT, Peace Corps Volunteer, Ghana, 1992-94; Professor of Chemistry, Franklin & Marshall College
"...this novel reveals the ambiguity, the mystery, and ultimately the reward of embracing a new culture while holding on to the core of your being."
- ERIN BAKER, Peace Corps Volunteer, Ghana, 1992-94; Professor of Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
"The Advocacy does not 'other' anyone. It is masterful in this way."
- MADELEINE MADER, Peace Corps Country Director, Ghana, 2004-07
"While reading The Advocacy, the term that came to mind over-and-over was, cura personalis; a Latin phrase taught with tenacity by every Jesuit influenced institution. "Caring for the whole person" - body, mind and spirit comes screaming through the pages of every chapter."
- PROFESSOR DANIEL B. OERTHER, PhD, PE, Missouri University of Science and Technology; Three-time Fulbrighter; former Senior Science Advisor at the U.S. Department of State; and incoming President of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists
A woman takes on powerful mining interests while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana in Fischer’s debut novel.
Twenty-nine-year-old civil engineer Louisa Lehmann challenges the profit-driven company West Africa Gold to redress the harmful consequences of its gold-mining operation. Her predecessor, Lynn Lubic, formed an organization known as “the Advocacy” after her research showed that WAG’s new dam was contaminating local water supplies with cyanide, arsenic trioxide, and other heavy metals. Lehmann is up against mine manager Finn Harrigan, a quintessential corporate villain with a callous attitude, a room-length desk, and a smoking habit. The strength of Fischer’s novel rests on Lehmann—a delightful, complicated character—and the keen attention that the character gives to even the most subtle observations. For example, when describing vegetation, she narrates, “In every pore swells the dank taste of afterbirth.” Here’s her take on a piece of furniture: “There is eroticism in a table. A clean, hard surface ready and waiting to support creation.” To calm herself, Lehmann often cycles through colors, textures, and patterns, but she’s most interesting in the interrogative mode, as when she wonders, “How long does it take to walk past someone who is walking toward you?” She constantly reevaluates her internal life in an honest way and digs into her familial strife, her high-achieving childhood in Bakersfield, California, and her difficult relationship to establishment feminism, wondering at one point: “With what license could the feminists discount the lives of the men with whom I worked?” Later, as she works for and alongside local Ghanaians, she experiences ecstatic encounters with the divine. When Harrigan attempts to frame her and her organization for a crime, she at last stands up to WAG in memorable style. Lehmann never quite moves past the possessive attitude that she has toward Ghana at the story’s outset (“It is ugly and it is mine”), but she otherwise mines her psyche so deeply that readers can almost forget this lack of growth.
A consistently engaging work with a well-developed main character.