Valley at Risk

 Shelter in Place

Valley at Risk is a fictionalized account of the 2008 fatal explosion at a Bayer CropScience chemical plant located in a densely populated valley in the Appalachian mountains. The explosion kills two workers at a German-owned Kabot AgriBus plant. Fear of a release of the plant’s deadly gas, MIC, triggers a community-wide shelter-in-place. Residents must stay inside, seal all doors and windows. Julie, a newspaper reporter, investigates the explosion. Her fiancée, Ben, works in public relations at the plant. Twenty-five years earlier, Ben’s older brother, a hemophiliac and child-prodigy pianist, died of AIDS. Unable to identify a cause of Roger’s disease, Ben’s mother blames herself for not protecting him, and she has carried that guilt for a lifetime. Working closely with the newspaper’s managing editor, Julie unearths Kabot’s cover-up of the causes of the explosion and the magnitude of the continuing chemical risks faced by residents of the Kanawha Valley. Her findings fuel a congressional investigation and public censure of Kabot. As her investigation deepens, Julie soon uncovers a harrowing truth—one that sends tremors through the Valley and her relationships, leaving her searching for her own shelter-in-place.

What People Are Saying

“Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! This is a beautiful and engrossing story featuring rich, complex characters and a dynamic plot that had me eagerly waiting to turn the next page.”

—Eliot Parker

author of Breakdown at Clear River and Making Arrangements

“Progress can be an illusion, as Dwight Harshbarger’s compelling novel about a West Virginia chemical-plant disaster shows us. While some gain, others lose—profoundly. Harshbarger deftly charts the lives of a small town’s winners and losers, and brings us a protagonist who, though caught in the middle, is determined to uncover the truth.”

—Mark Brazaitis

author of Julia & Rodrigo

“Through the eyes of an investigative reporter, Valley at Risk: Shelter in Place gives us a chilling and deeply personal look into the lives of people living in the shadow of an enormous amount of toxic chemicals. Harshbarger describes the human errors that led to a horrifying fatal chemical plant explosion, one that nearly became an American Bhopal. We see ordinary citizens successfully standing up to a huge chemical corporation. But even in victory, the people of the valley continue to breathe air laced with toxic chemicals. Harshbarger’s novel opens windows into the chemical industry’s dark past, and its living presence–what we face today.”

—Richard Meibers

author Falling Off the Wind