Reading Corner | Small-town politician challenges corporation

“The Brook,” by John Sinsimer.
“The Brook,” by John Sinsimer. Courtesy image

John Sinsimer labels “The Brook” a novel but states in the preface that the story is based on facts.

He wrote the book “to highlight the problem of corporate pollution in the United States” and to make people aware of health problems that can arise because of it. The back cover explains that he had been mayor of Pompton Lakes, N.J.

In the story shortly after Harry Bonner is elected mayor of Comptons Pond, he finds a letter to the town from the ECC, identified as the Environmental Control Commission. The letter indicates the property of Smithfield Powder Works Plant is contaminated. Only three weeks remain on the deadline to request a hearing from the ECC.

Harry goes into high gear. He knows that a host of local residents, including employees and retirees of Smithfield, have suffered from several health problems. He believes these illnesses are the direct result of Smithfield contaminating the environment. Besides, the brook that travels through Smithfield grounds as well as behind the property of many residents has obstructions in it, which causes flooding.

He begins his investigation by contacting people experienced with environmental issues. He knows he needs the support of the town council to have a hearing with the ECC, but holdovers from the previous administration try to stymie his quest.

In addition, officials at Smithfield put roadblocks in his path. The plant manager explains that the cost to Smithfield would be in the millions of dollars, but Harry has the interest of his constitutions at heart and wants to see the investigation through to its end.

Soil samples show contamination, and a doctor tells residents Sandy and Harold Dingle that tests confirm two of their children have lead and mercury poisoning. As he goes forward with his investigation, Harry and his family endure harassment and threats, but he continues his pursuit of justice.

The reader is not sure which way the hearing or the final decision will go. Harry’s wife, Tracy, becomes seriously ill and wants him to resign as mayor. Kirk Evans, Carmella, Tony Scarpetta and Dan Ross are among the characters that add intrigue and engage the reader’s curiosity.

A drawback to the story is that it is replete with unnecessary details that slow the action. Telling that the meetings include the Pledge of Allegiance, giving mundane exchanges between characters when they meet and the explanations of getting meals prepared don’t add to the importance of the story. In addition, better choice of names would eliminate confusion between Harry and Harold, Kirk and Quentin and two women named Amy.

The story is reminiscent of Erin Brockovich and her determination to prove Pacific Gas & Electric contaminated the water in Hinkley, Calif. The company paid millions of dollars in fines and restitution for the contamination. In May of this year Duke Energy admitted guilt in causing pollution from coal-ash dumps and will pay $102 million in fines and restitution.

“The Brook” is a reminder to readers that corporations have to be accountable for their actions when polluting the environment, which affects people’s health in the process.

Jo Ann Mathews, For The Sun News

Storytime schedule at Chapin Library changes

As school gets back in session and summer wanes, the Chapin Memorial Library in Myrtle Beach alters its storytimes to better suit changing schedules. See the new schedule below:

BABY STORYTIME: Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 1-Dec. 15. For ages 4-18 months. Enjoy rhymes, fingerplays, music, bubbles and age appropriate toys with your child. Limited to 12 babies and their caregivers. Pre-registration is required 918-1275.

TODDLER STORYTIME: Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Sept. 2-Dec. 16. Join us for stories, flannelboards, fingerplays, songs and an age-appropriate craft. Early learning toys are available for parent/child use after storytime.

PRESCHOOL STORYTIME: Thursdays 11 a.m. Sept. 3-Dec. 17. For ages 3 through 5 years old. Children enjoy stories, songs, fingerplays, flannelboards and a craft. Literacy toys are available for parent/child use after storytime.

SCHOOL AGE STORYTIME: Wednesdays at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 2-Dec. 16. For kindergarteners and older children. Enjoy longer stories, songs, fingerplays, flannelboards and a craft. Literacy toys are available for parent/child use after storytime.

If you have book- or author-related news, email Items and reviews run on a space-available basis.

At a glance

Title: The Brook

Author: John Sinsimer

Publisher: iUniverse

Length: 345 pages

Cost: $20.95

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