The writings of Richard Kluger
Published 1964 by Doubleday & Co.
When the Bough Breaks chronicles a deep-rooted conflict of values that splits a community being transformed from countryside to suburb not far from New York City. Forest Glen Road, an outlying residential section of Somerset Township, overlooks a gloriously unspoiled woodland tract. When plans are revealed to rezone the woods and sell them for commercial and housing development, Forest Glen neighbors vow to preserve the serene surroundings that buffer their homes and way of life from encroaching suburban sprawl and eyesore.
Are these devoted combatants hopeless elitists? Yes, say their opponents, who include the town supervisor and its business leaders, who claim the new industry and development will lower the soaring tax rate and increase property values. But it is transparent to Forest Glen denizens that developing the Kingsland Woods would serve primarily to fatten the bank accounts of local businessmen and bolster the power of the political cronies controlling township affairs.
The battle warms up when the Forest Glen defenders of nature’s remnant discover that the law allows them to secede from the town and take the woods with them – if their plan to establish an independently incorporated village is approved by a townwide referendum. As the day of the vote approaches, the due process of law is abandoned, and the vested interests in town bring increasingly vicious pressure to bear on the would-be secessionists. The deepening clash profoundly affects the emotions, careers, and very lives of those caught up in the primal confrontation. When the smoke clears, it is evident that not all the heroes are on one side or all the villains on the other.
When the Bough Breaks is a tale very much in the American grain, exploring the classic theme of whether growth and development constitute progress even as they impose a withering price on the nation’s environment.
©2017 Richard Kluger