This review was first published by Booklist on August 20, 2021.
The National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ) was established by the federal government in the Appalachian area around Green Bank, West Virginia, in 1958, to protect a National Science Foundation radio telescope from signal interference. Within the NRQZ, everything from cellphones to WiFi to microwave ovens is restricted by law. In addition to attracting world-class astronomers to the region, the lack of technology over the years has attracted hippie communes, back-to-nature homesteaders, people suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome, and even the famous clown doctor, Patch Adams. In addition, the remote location made the NRQZ an ideal location for one of the most dangerous neo-Nazi organizations in the country, an NSA surveillance site, and murder and disappearances. Kurczy, a millennial journalist who rejects cellphones, spent several years visiting the NRQZ to learn why this place, of all places, would bring such disparate folk together. Turns out, the quiet zone isn’t all that quiet and not everyone wants it to be. An engaging and sympathetic study of the myriad people who call this unique place home.