Nicholas Baran, a one-time student activist, is now in his 40s, teaching at a community college in rural Connecticut after having been denied tenure at an Ivy League school. The tenure denial, despite consistent teaching awards and high performance was clearly politically motivated and instigated by a right-wing professor protecting his turf and the school from a labor-oriented, media-challenging progressive. Nicholas has leukemia, and, upon noticing that he appears to be living in a cancer cluster, begins a private investigation of the large chemical company located just upstream on the river that runs through the town near his neighborhood.

The investigation becomes more intense after he comes upon a local rescue squad retrieving the body of a small boy who has drowned in the river, but whose body reveals effects of considerable acid in the water. Though his wife fears for him and resists his efforts, even to the point of temporarily allying herself (and engaging in a dailliance with) a powerful local real estate broker, Nick finds an ally in his son's teacher, hesitant, but committed to finding out the truth.

Though Nick's disease is progressing rapidly, he and Sandy, the teacher, manage to break into the company's files and retrieve enough damaging evidence to expose deliberate deception of the public as well as documenting the high incidence of cancers in the immediate neighborhood. Before his death Nick manages to supply enough material to the major media to expose the scandal, and leaves a hard-won legacy of truthtelling to his children.


This is a first novel by an experienced journalist and editor of the Multi-Cultural Review, herself an experienced activist for human rights, social justice, peace, and environmental protection. Though in places the dialogue can seem a bit contrived, it is a lively and gripping story with memorable characters that teaches a great deal about the methods of effective protest and resistance to corporate control, the patience required of the best activists, and the value of grass-roots organizing. The book is certainly timely, and could be an effective introduction to the ongoing problem of corporate cover-ups that endanger the well-being of unsuspecting consumers, and to the fact that there's much to be grateful for in people who are willing to stay at the populist edge and challenge big money and managed media. A good read for book clubs and for people interested in public health.


The author won the 1993 Denali Press Award from American Library Association for outstanding reference book on cultural diversity in the U.S.


Curbstone Press

Place Published

Willamantic, Conn



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