Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage by Stephanie C. Hamel

Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage
Stephanie C. Hamel
Coffeetown Press (2011)
ISBN 9781603811149
Reviewed by April Sullivan for Reader Views (10/11)


Stephanie C. Hamel has written an honest, straight-forward, thought-provoking and well-written account of her dilemma with signing a gas lease on her country property in “Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage.” Stephanie, her husband Tom, and their two young children Matthew and Michael, enjoy the quiet solitude and wide open spaces of their family land out in rural Pennsylvania. They purchased the land from Stephanie’s mother after her father died. She vividly recalls and relates childhood memories at the farm.

But, when oil and gas companies start knocking on doors and sending letters about wanting to purchase rights to drill underground for gas in the area, Tom and Stephanie butt heads about the decision they should make. With an offer of $2,500 an acre, Tom has dollar signs in his eyes and visions of early retirement and more golf time. Stephanie immediately thinks about the environmental impact to the land. She has a conflicted moral duty to the earth on one hand, as an academic with a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences, and to her family’s needs on the other hand, with Tom’s job in jeopardy of being lost and she wanting to continue her role as a stay-at-home mom.

Hamel’s use of quotes at the beginning of each chapter was the best use of this technique I have ever seen in a book. So many times quotes used in this manner are too vague or too poetic. These quotes were obviously thoughtfully chosen. Each quote and chapter title made perfect sense for the short chapter that followed.

I really enjoyed “Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage” because it made me think. We are all convinced that we will stand up for our morals if tested. But no one knows what they will really do until the situation arises in our own lives.

I admire the courage and thoughtfulness it took for Stephanie C. Hamel to write this book. As she says many times in the pages, she wants to be the heroine of her own book. How could she write it if she was thinking about giving in and taking the money? But she did write it. By using diary entries and notes from phone calls, Stephanie was able to portray the push and pull she was going through both externally and internally at this time in her life. She told her story honestly and did not hold back in an effort to make herself look better in the end. That makes her a true heroine.

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