"Captivating." —Kirkus | "Fascinating, deeply reported, and slightly eerie." —BookPage (Starred Review) | "The Quiet Zone will live on in your memory." —Bill McKibben
A stunning portrait of an Appalachian community, the people who call it home, and the enduring human quest for quiet
Deep in the Appalachian Mountains lies the last truly quiet town in America. Green Bank, West Virginia, is a place at once futuristic and old-fashioned: It’s home to the Green Bank Observatory, where astronomers search the depths of the universe using the latest technology, while schoolchildren go without WiFi or iPads. With a ban on all devices emanating radio frequencies that might interfere with the observatory’s telescopes, Quiet Zone residents live a life free from constant digital connectivity. But a community that on the surface seems idyllic is a place of contradictions, where the provincial meets the seemingly supernatural and quiet can serve as a cover for something darker.
Stephen Kurczy embedded in Green Bank, making the residents of this small Appalachian village his neighbors. He shopped at the town’s general store, attended church services, went target shooting with a seven-year-old, square-danced with the locals, sampled the local moonshine. In The Quiet Zone, he introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters. There is a tech buster patrolling the area for illegal radio waves; “electrosensitives” who claim that WiFi is deadly; a sheriff’s department with a string of unsolved murder cases dating back decades; a camp of neo-Nazis plotting their resurgence from a nearby mountain hollow. Amongst them all are the ordinary citizens seeking a simpler way of living. Kurczy asks: Is a less connected life desirable? Is it even possible?
The Quiet Zone is a remarkable work of investigative journalism—at once a stirring ode to place, a tautly-wound tale of mystery, and a clarion call to reexamine the role technology plays in our lives.
Journalist Kurczy debuts with a colorful yet diffuse examination of life in Green Bank, W.Va., the so-called "quietest town in America." Home to a federal radio astronomy observatory that measures "invisible energy waves" from space, Green Bank is part of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a region covering more than 13,000 square miles where wireless communication signals and devices with electromagnetic emissions are tightly restricted. Kurczy interviews "electrosensitives" who have come to the Quiet Zone to escape debilitating illnesses they believe are caused by electromagnetic radiation, but he soon discovers that many Green Bank residents do, in fact, use Wi-Fi and other prohibited devices. He also examines other distinctive influences in Pocahontas County, including Patch Adams's Gesundheit! Institute, which has solicited millions of dollars since the 1970s to build an as-yet-unrealized free hospital, and the National Alliance, a white supremacist group. Though Kurczy comes to view the region as "less and less Walden and more and more weird," he maintains an appreciation for the "pared-down" pace of life. The narrative rambles and the stakes feel rather low, but Kurczy succeeds in unlocking many secrets of this insular community. Readers will enjoy the peek behind the curtain.