Sunday, July 22, 2012

Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen

Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." It's the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and--unknown to those who lived there--tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium. 

It's funny that I hadn't heard of Rocky Flats before reading this book.  Given the fact that legal battles are still being fought, you'd think that this would be a more publicized place.  The way the situation is presented, Rocky Flats has been a government cover up for decades.  Unsafe working conditions, unpredictable plutonium and mysterious illnesses surrounding the area bring this to the forefront of environmental hazards.  

Throughout the book, we get to watch Kristen grow up as well as hear the stories of several other people that lived in the area.  Kristen's family life is interesting, if not perfect.  It took me awhile to figure out exactly what my problem with this book was.  It's factual and entertaining.  It touches on a subject that definitely needs to be investigated.  It's not one-sided.  The characters are realistic and not overly embellished.  After pondering awhile, I figured out exactly what my problem is.  There are two of them, actually.  First, all of the comments I'd read concerning this book before reading it described it as 'terrifying' and 'scary'.  I suppose that would depend on your point of view.  I found it more sickening and worrisome.  The biggest problem I had though was the immense amount of data that was spackled in.  Most of the time it was difficult to remember what was going on because I was so attacked with facts and figures.  Although they're necessary for the purpose of the book, I can't help but think there could have been a better way to present the information rather than in the middle of Kristen's life story time.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Shawn

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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