Cover Image: Paradise Falls

Paradise Falls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Wow! Paradise Falls is an incredible book about community activism. Until reading this I was completely unaware of the events that took place at Love Canal, or the amazing group of people who refused to stop until someone fixed the problem. 

Keith O'Brien has combined the true stories of a group of mothers, with facts and information about the environmental catastrophe, the companies involved, and the effects of their negligence. While reading this book I felt so many emotions, but I just could not stop reading it. 

Excellent read and it's a perfect non-fiction even for people who don't normally read this genre because you will find yourself quickly caught up in this story.
Was this review helpful?
I won't give this a low rating because I simply could not finish it. I feel like it was a case of "it's not you, it's me". I just couldn't bring myself to read much past the 25% mark. I'm interested in the subject matter, though, so would love an ebook version.
Was this review helpful?
DNF. The first 10% of this was really compelling, but then the book started dragging. I hate to say it — I really do, I read a lot of books! — but I think this would be a lot easier to get through as a 2-hour documentary. Not just literally. The length was foreboding and I think not entirely necessary. But that being said I don't really know how the book ends because I didn't make it that far. Fascinating concept and great journalism. Just not something I could lose myself in.
Was this review helpful?
As an environmentalist, I loved this story of Paradise Falls. Although I’ve heard the tale before, the writing kept a non-fiction story fast paced and reading like a memoir. There was so much information in here I want the world to be aware of, and this formatting makes that so much more likely.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 stars

"Paradise Falls" is the true story of the neighbors, mothers and scientists who exposed Hooker Chemicals and the terrifying environmental situation at Love Canal. This book was really well put together, it was a good pace, especially for being some heavy non-fiction. As an environmental scientists, one of the first things you learn about is Love Canal and how environmental damage can really be harmful. These families, including their children and pets were exposed to toxic chemicals everyday - they had so many effects to their health, wellbeing and every day lives. These damages will never be reversed.

It is amazing how much has changed and how much hasn't changed in terms of environmental degradation, politics and big corporations. Trying to place blame anywhere else, talking in circles, pushing off a solution even when the science is staring you straight in your face.

I am so proud of Lois Gibbs, Luella Kenny, and other mothers who pushed this issue forward and demanded change. It is awful that they had to deal with not only environmental toxins, sick children and burning skin, but also men/politicians/governments/companies ignoring them, diminishing their intellect and character, and (dare I say it...) gaslighting them.

This book isn't for everyone but it is VERY important I am glad it was recorded for posterity.
Was this review helpful?
A key piece of our history - environmentally, legally, politically, and socioeconomically - reduced to a nonfiction book everyone needs to read. When I was growing up in the early 2000s (even in Upstate NY neat the actual Love Canal), Erin Brockovich was thought of as the first pioneer (and woman) fighting against big wig environmental corruption, but these ladies are the real OGs!

Thank you to NetGalley, KDPG, and the author for a copy of this title. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
This book was an incredible read.  I found the narrative style interesting and very informative.  As a western New Yorker I heard much about love canal when I was growing up but didn't know a whole lot about what had happened.  This book enlightened me and gave me a new appreciation for the story itself.  I highly recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
This was equally fascinating and terrible, I was all wrapped up in the gripping narrative but at the same it was terribly frightening. I think the writing was excellent, well researched and paced, with  nice personal stories of those involved/effected that kept you emotionally engaged in the story.
Was this review helpful?
I am an environmental scientist, schooled in the mid 90’s- 20 years past the establishment of the EPA.  But the term Love Canal only meant evacuated houses in NY to me.  This well researched book gives the history and the personal toll that it had on an entire community.  It was not here one day gone the next- it was a struggle and unknown hazard for years before anything was done.  Generations and families impacted are all explored in this book.  Highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
An enthrallingly detailed reporting on the 1970’s scandal involving the discovery of Hooker Chemicals disposal of toxic waste in Niagara, NY. Several mothers in the local town noticed a pattern of unexplained illness, foul smelling drainage, and death of local wildlife. Their advocacy and persistency led to the identification of the Love Canal. 

This book was well reported and engaging. Highly recommend for lovers of Erin Brockovich! 

Sincere thanks to NetGalley and Pantheon Books for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I was so excited for this book - so thank you so much for the advanced copy!

I have been on an environmental nonfiction kick lately, so I did enjoy the storytelling and the topic of this book. My only qualm is that it felt a bit academic and longwinded at times. I understand this story had so many facets and so many human stories to include, but I found myself not being able to focus at times. 

However, I would still highly recommend to any others that enjoy environmental nonfiction.
Was this review helpful?
Great read - this is nonfiction, but it's more gripping than a lot of thrillers I've read. At times it feels like a dispatch from another era (the Middle Ages, say), and then all of a sudden you realize that some things haven't really changed at all. I will say it *is* a long read, but the prose is excellent and kept me reading even during the parts that felt a bit drawn-out (politics. Not a fan of politics, or politicians; unsurprisingly, the higher you look, the more unpleasant people get). "Paradise Falls" made me angry, sad and frustrated at times, but like I said, it reads really well and draws you in completely. I can just see this turned into one of those based-on-a-true-story blockbusters-with-a-conscience, complete with strong female leads.
Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
O'Brien gives a masterclass in powerful storytelling with this book chronicling the horrifying story of environmental catastrophe in a small town. The events detailed in this book are eye-opening and devastating, but necessary to talk about in order to determine how to move forward as a society keeping people before profits, and safety before corporate gain.
Was this review helpful?
Reading this true story about a long ignored environmental catastrophe, and the people who suffered the consequences because of it, had me enraged, bewildered, and inspired.

Starting in the 1940s, Hooker Chemical began dumping a hazardous cocktail of chemicals into an old canal. Disgustingly, after coming to the realization that the Love Canal property was quickly becoming a liability, Hooker sold the plot to the board of education for $1. Later, it became the site of an elementary school, playground and a residential neighborhood.

It wasn't until the mid-late 1970s that this toxic scourge was recognized and addressed thanks to concerned mothers like Lois Gibbs, Elene Thornton & Luella Kenny, microbiologist Joseph McDougall, congressional aide Bonnie Casper, scientist Beverly Paigen, Niagara Gazette reporter Michael Brown & others.

It was so interesting getting to hear from the different players involved in this situation. In O'Brien's book you see both the best and the worst of humanity. You behold the kinds of horrible secrets & harm that can be kept and hidden, and the sort of remarkable change that can be accomplished with gumption and relentlessness.

I was heartbroken reading about women and their babies suffering from birth defects, family pets dying premature deaths, and noxious chemicals invading resident's homes, lives & well-being. Most excruciating of all was the downward spiral of 7 year old Jon Allen Kenny who developed a host of medical issues & ultimately died.

While the overarching action of this book took place nearly 50 years ago, the warnings that require heeding and the lessons that need learning ring as true now as they did then.

I give Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe by Keith O'Brien 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I highly recommend this book to those who "enjoyed":
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of Americas Shining Women by Kate Moore

Thank you NetGalley & Pantheon/Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for this ARC. Paradise Falls is out NOW!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for my copy of Paradise Falls : The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe  by Keith O'Brien in exchange for my review and honest opinion. 

The staggering story of an unlikely band of mothers in the 1970s who discovered Hooker Chemical's deadly secret of Love Canal--exposing one of America's most devastating toxic waste disasters and sparking the modern environmental movement as we know it today.

Paradise Falls was a truly eye-opening story to me. I had never heard of the Love Canal and this horrible toxic waste catastrophe. Reading about it infuriated me though! I of course had to do more research and reading after I had read Paradise Falls. Much thanks to Lois Gibbs, Luella Kenny, and the other mothers who fought heart and soul to save their community. This is a must read for all.
Was this review helpful?
Niagara Falls: Idyllic family travel hotspot or shady corporate environmental dump site?  Not the paradise you were expecting were you?

In a suburban 1970’s neighborhood on the east side of the Niagara Falls, a group of mothers fight for the lives of their families and their homes. Unbeknownst to many of the families in the area their local school and playground was built on the so-called Love Canal—which decades before became the dumpsite of twenty thousand tons of Hooker Chemical’s toxic waste. When pungent fumes permeated their homes and exposed toxic barrels appeared on the neighborhood baseball field, these women fought their way to the top just to be heard. Years before Erin Brockovich, this shocking true story helped pave the way to try and end needless corporate pollution and laid the groundwork for the environmental regulations we have today. 

Armed with an insatiable curiosity for environmental narrative nonfiction, I was quite blown away by this true story. In fact, it still seems so implausible that there are dramatic moments that give me emotional whiplash when I think of them. My heart was so heavy learning about the families that lived near the Love Canal, and the sheer desperation to try to protect their loved ones seeps from each page. The problematic bureaucracy of the government at the time and their lack of urgency left me feeling extremely ragey. Keith O’Brien did such a fantastic job researching and relating the stories of Lois Gibbs, Luella Kenny, and the other mothers in the neighborhood. As far as narrative nonfiction goes, this book is on the top of my list as a new favorite. I highly recommend you check out Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe by  Keith O’Brien. 

And many thanks goes to @pantheonbooks for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
Paradise Falls is the true story of the environmental disaster at Love Canal.  What took place in Niagara Falls set the stage for future environmental legislation and showed that a group of moms can make a difference.  I knew some vague information about Love Canal and Superfund sites before reading Paradise Falls, but this book was eye-opening.  The late 1970s and early 1980s weren't that long ago.  Some things have come a long way since then, but many more still need improvement.  So many topics are considered political in the United States that really shouldn't be, mainly because improving them helps everyone.  Corporate greed has gone too far, and Paradise Falls shows that first-hand with Hooker Chemical.  Although this is a nonfiction book, Keith O'Brien's writing is so smooth and cohesive that it reads like a dystopian novel.  I would consider this book a must-read for just about everyone, no matter their current thoughts on the environment.  4.5 stars
Was this review helpful?
Let me introduce to what I'm calling the best thriller of the year so far.

Is it actually a thriller? No, not in the way we would normally define it, but this is a thriller none the less.

This book tells the terrifyingly true story of Love Canal. "What's Love Canal?" you ask. Oh, only one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

It boils down to this - in the 1940s-1950s a chemical company in western New York began dumping hazardous waste into a local canal. Then the company covered the dump and sold the land to the school board who then built a school on it and then later a neighborhood sprang up. Fast forward to the 1970s and people started smelling weird odors in their basements, children got chemical burns at the playground & people were getting sick.

This book covers what happens next - when neighbors rise up and demand local, state & federal representatives for help. And when the help doesn't come they take matters into their own hands and work harder.

When I call this book a thriller, I mean it. You will be on the edge of your seat and turning pages so fast you won't want to put the book down.

O'Brien focuses mainly on the women at Love Canal, telling their stories - a housewife turned grassroots organizer, a mother grappling with the inexplicable loss of a child, a female scientist harassed by her male colleagues, a junior Congressional aide and more. These women worked together to save a community. And many continue to work to ensure it never happens again.

This has all the markings of a great thriller - a mystery, a company cover-up, lack of help from powerful resources, and a rag tag group of heroines getting to the bottom of the mess. The only difference is it's real - this happened.

And while we can say we hope it never happens again we know that's just wishful thinking. As the book points out there's probably thousands of Love Canals.

Thank you to Pantheon Books for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I'd heard of Love Canal before in a college toxicology course, but not in great depth so I was really excited to read this book.
I like non-fiction, but sometimes find it to be a little dry and tedious to get through. However, this book is not dry nor tedious. Paradise Falls is written with just the right amount of drama and intrigue while maintaining the truth of the history of the Love Canal scandal.  In reading the book, it is evident that the author has really researched and presented all of the historical facts available- and to do it in such an entertaining way is so impressive! 

If you aren't familiar with Love Canal, it is an area in the Niagara Falls region of upstate New York where an abandoned canal was used as a place to dump toxic waste. In the late seventies, it became suspected that some health problems and injuries occurring in residents of the surrounding neighborhoods and schools were linked. The book details the grassroots movement that ultimately resulted in one of the most important environmental policy victories in U.S. history. 

At nearly 500 pages this isn't a "quick" read, but it is so compelling and well-done that I couldn't put it down.
Was this review helpful?
This story is so important at this time as we all fear that we have no control over what happens in our lives under "big" government or corporate greed. In Paradise Falls, Keith O"Brien gives us a detailed account of how the middle class citizens of Niagara Falls were quietly living their lives until the ugly threat of chemical contamination was suddenly thrust into their midst. These people had to find a way to save their children, themselves and the future of environmental contamination through whatever means they could find. They did finally succeed at getting the attention of the whole country and got results which took years of sacrifice and hard won battles and set a precedent for all environmental controls in the future. It proves that even the lowly citizen can win against "big" government and corporate heads. We should all thank Mr. O'Brien for this careful researched account of the discovery and resolution of "Love Canal"!
Was this review helpful?