Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)

Paradise Falls

Best Seller
Paradise Falls by Keith O'Brien
Paperback $18.00
May 02, 2023 | ISBN 9780593312094

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (4) +
  • May 02, 2023 | ISBN 9780593312094

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Jun 07, 2022 | ISBN 9780593556726

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Apr 12, 2022 | ISBN 9780593318430

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Apr 12, 2022 | ISBN 9780593318447

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Buy the Audiobook Download:

Listen to a sample from Paradise Falls

Product Details



“Propulsive . . . A mighty work of historical journalism . . . Paradise Falls is a glorious quotidian thriller about people forced to find and use their inner strength. After all these years, they are fortunate to have a chronicler as focused and thoughtful as O’Brien. He brings their courage back to life.”
The Boston Globe
“With stunning clarity . . . [O’Brien chronicles] the human tragedy of Love Canal. . . By the time I read of Jon Allen’s death, even though I knew the outcome, I cried. . . As the disaster unfolds, there are horrific discoveries, medical mysteries and plenty of screaming neighbors . . . so gripping it could almost be a thriller.”
—Erika Engelhaupt, Science News

“Paced like a thriller, it’s a remarkable story of perseverance against impossible odds.”
Chicago Review of Books

“A stunning, sad, and instructive story . . . [revealing how] Love Canal transformed environmental policy in the United States.”
Psychology Today

“At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, infuriating and inspiring, Paradise Falls is an exhaustively researched and compelling excavation of the past that remains eerily relevant in this moment. O’Brien deftly knits together a tightly-paced, relatable, and definitive narrative of a watershed moment in the annals of environmental justice…and its profoundly felt absence.”
—Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of We Gather Together, The Last Castle, and The Girls of Atomic City

“Nearly two decades before environmental activist Erin Brockovich made headlines in California, a group of mothers on the other side of the country launched an epic battle to save their neighborhood in the shadow of Niagara Falls. Exhaustively reported and expertly told, Paradise Falls is the definitive, captivating account of the women who, against all odds, exposed the deadly secret of Love Canal. Keith O’Brien’s latest is narrative nonfiction at its finest.”
Abbott Kahler, bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park
“How does an environmental disaster become an inspiring tale of homemakers turned heroes? Start with Keith O’Brien, a gifted writer who expertly blends emotion and gumshoe reporting to tell the story of ordinary people who fought to save their families. Paradise Falls is a master work of narrative nonfiction.” 
—Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of Fall and Rise and 13 Hours

“This book—about an historical event, an environmental catastrophe—reads like a thriller, even if you know the contours of that event and its outcome. In luminous prose, O’Brien brings people to life on the page. You’ll end up caring about them, and admiring them, for their courage and persistence.”
—Jonathan Harr, author of the #1 national bestseller A Civil Action

“Meticulously researched . . . gripping . . . This authoritative book deserves a wide audience and should provoke reflection on just how much we have progressed in the 45 years since the Love Canal disaster.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Riveting . . . the text blisters with details . . . Paradise Falls is a narrative resplendent with ordinary people who stood up against overwhelming odds. O’Brien has accomplished an outstanding work of investigative journalism.”
Booklist, starred review
“Deeply reported, masterly . . . a story [O’Brien] brings to life for a new generation. [Paradise Falls] is a marker we can use to measure how far we’ve come . . . in terms of environmental responsibility, and how far we still have to go.”
Publishers Weekly

“Deeply researched . . . In this work of investigative reporting, O’Brien narrates a tale of corporate malfeasance and inaction, governmental response (or lack thereof), and, above all, inspiring citizen activism in the face of harrowing circumstances . . . A thorough retelling of an environmental tragedy and a renewed call for corporate accountability.”
Kirkus Reviews


Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction LONGLIST 2023

Table Of Contents

 Maps xiii
Author’s Note xvii
Introduction: May 14, 1972 3
1. Lois 11
2. Luella 16
3. Energetic, Effective, Experienced—LaFalce! 21
4. A Model City 27
5. We Should at Least Visit the Place 34
6. Kids Should Be Warned 38
7. Containers of Dubious Condition 49
8. A Sea of Red Tape 56
9. Certain Definitive Action 60
10. This Is Our Answer 67
11. A Full and Frank Discussion 71
12. The Boy at the Concert 80
13. Plan C 83
14. Presumed Nephrotic Syndrome 88
15. The True Believer 93
16. Whitewash 102
17. The Witches’ End of Fairyland 108
18. If Anyone Should Complain 115
19. A Long, Strange Dream 123
20. Many Abusive Phone Calls 128
21. Mommy’s Going to Stay 136
22. Give My Regards to Broadway 140
23. Let Our People Speak 146
24. The Boy in Bed 11 152
25. Two Sides of the Square 156
26. Can I Go Home Soon? 160
27. Marked Houses 164
28. God Only Knows 173
29. We’ve Done Everything We Can 185
30. Useless Housewife Data 191
31. Clusters 196
32. White Mice 203
33. Uncomfortable Feelings 211
34. The Paigen Problem 216
35. Relocation by Impregnation 221
36. Now and Forevermore 229
37. Listen to the People Who Know 234
38. No Job Is Worth Your Life 239
39. The Bird in Black Creek 250
40. All-Out Opposition 259
41. Not Many Whistleblowers Survive 266
42. Still Here, Chemically Treated 272
43. Looks Like You’ve Become the Enemy 276
44. Very Best Wishes for the New Year 281
45. Pray for the Dead 289
46. A Kangaroo Court 297
47. A Significant Political Problem 304
48. Emotional Fires 307
49. Tell Us How You Feel 311
50. That Crowd Will Rip You Apart 318
51. Today We Have to Be Meek 328
52. We’re from Niagara Falls 333
Epilogue 345
Acknowledgments 359
Notes 363
Index 425

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates about Keith O’Brien
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking “SIGN UP”, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy. You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top