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Burning Under: A Novel

Thomas Bennitt, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Burning Under is a cerebral literary thriller (68,000 words) set in the Rust Belt and coal-mining region of southwest Pennsylvania. The narrative revolves around a mine explosion, triggered by methane gas, which kills several miners. In the wake of this disaster, the lives of three very different people converge. Larry, a veteran miner, haunted by his tragic past, survives the explosion but cannot avoid he media spotlight or the hero label. Denise, a young nurse, tries to escape her troubled marriage with Luke – another surviving miner – by taking a job at a Pittsburgh hospital. But when Luke is evacuated to the same hospital, where he slips into a coma, Denise’s job turns into a form of emotional torture. Finally, Simon is a disgruntled lawyer for Faust Coal who suspects the accident was caused by his company’s low safety and ethical standards. Encouraged by his new girlfriend Anita, a Pittsburgh journalist, he digs around and uncovers a trail of evidence and a massive cover-up engineered by the CEO, George Faust. Simon, Larry, and Denise are linked by a common desire to expose Faust Coal, and they form an alliance. But George will do anything conceal the truth and exact revenge, which provokes a violent end. Burning Under blends literary prose, suspense, and dark humor. Finally, the broader themes woven into the narrative – such as wage/wealth inequality and capitalism’s exploitation of the environment in Appalachia and the Rust Belt – reflect my research and scholarship work in areas like Twentieth-Century American Literature, Ecocriticism, Environmental Justice, and Marxist Theory.

Subject Area

Creative writing

Recommended Citation

Bennitt, Thomas, "Burning Under: A Novel" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10271314.