52 pages 1 hour read

Eliza Griswold

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2018

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction book by journalist and poet Eliza Griswold. This study guide follows the book’s first edition, which was published in 2018. Griswold is a journalist known for investigative reporting into political issues, having previously published articles in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation. In Amity and Prosperity, Griswold investigates natural gas companies drilling in Pennsylvania’s western Washington County. The focus of Griswold’s narrative is the story of Stacey Haney, a single mother of two children who wages a battle with the natural gas company Range Resources after initially leasing them her land rights.

The initial chapters describe how Stacey first decided to begin business with Range Resources. In the early 2000s, natural gas companies like Range are eager to drill for gas trapped inside of western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale deposits. These companies want to obtain the gas through fracking, a procedure where liquids are pumped into the rocks to break them open and release the gas inside of it. Range begins contacting residents in Amity and the surrounding towns, offering them lucrative leasing agreements to obtain the rights to drill on their land. Stacey lives in a farmhouse with her two children, Harley and Paige, and hopes that signing a lease will provide her with enough money to renovate the farm. She joins with her neighbor, Beth Voyles, though they grow skeptical after being rushed by Range’s attorneys at the lease signing.

When fracking begins at the nearby Yeager site, the construction trucks kick up clouds of dust that cover both Beth and Stacey’s homes. Soon after the fracking begins, Harley falls ill with a mysterious chronic illness and has to miss most school days. After many of Stacey and Beth’s animals fall ill, they both begin to suspect that Range’s fracking is polluting their water supply. Tests reveal that Harley has elevated levels of arsenic in his blood, and Stacey contacts Range Resources to ask them to provide her with a clean water supply. Stacey also begins to suspect that the fracking is poisoning their air in addition to the water. As Range refuses to take responsibility for the contaminated water, an increasingly desperate Stacey decides to publicly speak out against Range at activist meetings about fracking.

Stacey’s public appearance draws media attention, and Stacey and Beth decide to retain two local lawyers, John and Kendra Smith. Kendra is a former corporate attorney with knowledge of chemical exposure cases. The Smiths file a lawsuit against the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), imploring them to provide Beth with clean water and commence research for a larger lawsuit against Range Resources. As Kendra digs through subpoenaed documents, she discovers that the fracking well has leaked multiple times, and the DEP failed to inform Stacey or Beth. Kendra searches for further information about the Yeager site by subpoenaing subcontractors hired by Range. When Beth’s neighbor Buzz similarly reports having contaminated water, the Smiths also decide to represent Buzz.

As the Smiths prepare to file a case against Range Resources, Stacey decides to move her family away from the farmhouse and the toxic fracking well. Though Harley’s health soon improves, Stacey remains ill, as she makes frequent trips to the farmhouse to check on the animals. Stacey struggles to keep her family afloat, amassing large debts as she pays for medical bills, cancer insurance, and a new camper for housing. After the farmhouse is broken into, Stacey hopes to abandon the farm, but she can’t sell the home.

Kendra discovers that Range Resources had been working with supposedly independent water testing labs to alter the water test results given to Stacey and Beth—which she believes is evidence of fraud. Kendra searches for chemical proof that Range Resources fracking mixture had contaminated her clients’ water. However, she can’t because Range Resources refuses to disclose the full list of chemicals used in their fracking. John Smith successfully fights a separate legal battle against a Pennsylvania state law, Act 13, which had made it easier for gas companies to frack. Despite the success, the Smiths lose a lawsuit representing Buzz against the DEP.

As the case drags on for years without going to trial, Stacey and her family attempt to move on with their lives. However, the legal battle has left Stacey struggling with mountains of debt and alienated from the Amity community. Despite her pessimism, Stacey finds new hope when fellow activists tell her how Stacey’s story inspired them to fight against fracking. In 2018, Stacey and Beth meet with Range Resources, finally coming to a settlement agreement.