By Richard Powers
The long history of a family-run corporation and the benefits and consequences of its considerable gains—on its employees, customers, and community—is gorgeously and disturbingly reconstructed in Powers’ sixth novel.
Two narrative threads inform the novel. The first is the story of the Clare (think Dow, or GE) corporation, from the Civil War through the 1950s, from a family-run business through expansion, labor strife, chemical innovation, and massive growth. Both the quotidian and the seismic details and events in the company’s life are compellingly revealed with a cumulative and incriminating weight. Rather than taking cheap shots at the evils of capitalism, Powers instead admirably uses the hammer of incident and well-researched facts. The second thread, set in the present day, is the story of a woman who lives in the town the corporation built, and whose health suffers at the expense of the Clare corporation’s gain.
See also: Thomas Mann’s