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Baker Towers: A Novelby Jennifer Haigh
Synopses & Reviews
A stunning follow-up to her bestselling debut, Mrs. Kimble, Jennifer Haigh returns with Baker Towers, a compelling story of love and loss in a western Pennsylvania mining town in the years after World War II.
Bakerton is a company town built on coal, a town of church festivals and ethnic neighborhoods, hunters' breakfasts and firemen's parades. Its children are raised in company houses — three rooms upstairs, three rooms downstairs. Its ball club leads the coal company league. The twelve Baker mines offer good union jobs, and the looming black piles of mine dirt don't bother anyone. Called Baker Towers, they are local landmarks, clear evidence that the mines are booming. Baker Towers mean good wages and meat on the table, two weeks' paid vacation and presents under the Christmas tree.
The mines were not named for Bakerton; Bakerton was named for the mines. This is an important distinction. It explains the order of things.
Born and raised on Bakerton's Polish Hill, the five Novak children come of age during wartime, a thrilling era when the world seems on the verge of changing forever. The oldest, Georgie, serves on a minesweeper in the South Pacific and glimpses life beyond Bakerton, a promising future he is determined to secure at all costs. His sister Dorothy, a fragile beauty, takes a job in Washington, D.C., and finds she is unprepared for city life. Brilliant Joyce longs to devote herself to something of consequence but instead becomes the family's keystone, bitterly aware of the opportunities she might have had elsewhere. Sandy sails through life on looks and charm, and Lucy, the volatile baby, devours the family's attention and develops a bottomless appetite for love.
Baker Towers is a family saga and a love story, a hymn to a time and place long gone, to America's industrial past and the men and women we now call the Greatest Generation. This is a feat of imagination from an extraordinary new voice in American fiction, a writer of enormous power and skill.
"The second novel by the author of the award-winning Mrs. Kimble depicts life in a postwar Pennsylvania mining town and continues Haigh's exploration of the hardships of women's lives. In the town of Bakerton, dominated by the towers of the title (made of slowly combusting piles of scrap coal), poor families live in ethnic enclaves of company houses. Italian Rose Novak broke with tradition by marrying a Polish man, but he dies in the book's first chapter, and Rose and her five children struggle through the years that follow. The oldest son, Georgie, returns from WWII and avoids the mining life by marrying the posh, cynical daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia store owner. Rose's daughter Dorothy gets a wartime job in glamorous Washington but breaks down and returns to Bakerton, while capable daughter Joyce, who joins the military just as the war ends, comes home to take care of her ailing mother, resenting Georgie and Sandy, the handsome youngest brother, who escape town. Only Rose and Lucy, the awkward youngest daughter, are content with things as they are. The story climaxes with a disaster at the mine, which affects each of the Novak children. Haigh's prose never soars, but she writes convincingly of family and smalltown relations, as well as of the intractable frustrations of American poverty. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Jan. 4) Forecast: Strong publisher support, a 25-city author tour and Haigh's solid storytelling could make this a big seller. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An elegant, elegiac multigenerational saga about a small coal-mining community in western Pennsylvania that shows how talented [Haigh] really is....Almost mythic in its ambition, somewhere between Oates and Updike country, and thoroughly satisfying." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Baker Towers is a novel possessing a rare, quiet power to evoke a time long past and the character of the people who lived then." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Haigh uses evocative prose to create a picture of a company town — and of the human condition — that is both accurate and moving." Library Journal
"Jennifer Haigh gets a memorable grip on family and locale in her vivid novel....
"Last year, Jennifer Haigh impressed readers with her brilliant debut, Mrs. Kimble. With her second novel, Haigh does it again — differently, but just as well." BookPage
The author of "Mrs. Kimble" returns with an emotionally rich and evocative exploration of community, love, and family set in a western Pennsylvania coal town in the years following World War II.
About the Author
Jennifer Haigh is the author of the critically acclaimed Mrs. Kimble, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award for outstanding first fiction. Born and raised in Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, she is a graduate of Dickinson College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in Good Housekeeping, the Hartford Courant, Alaska Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She lives on Boston's South Shore.
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