Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I just finished a second novel by Jennifer Haigh. After enjoying Faith so much, I picked up Baker Towers, which had been recommended to me by my friend Lois. Baker Towers takes place in the town of Bakerton, a coal mining town in western Pennsylvania, during WWII and the post-war years. It follows the lives of the Novak family--Stanley, a first-generation Polish immigrant and his Italian wife Rose, and their five children, who live in company housing in Bakerton. Stanley, like most of the men in Bakerton, works in the coal mines, and when he drops dead of a heart attack, Rose is left to raise the children. We follow the lives of the five children over the years, Georgie, Sandy, Joyce, Dorothy, and Lucy, as they navigate a not so easy life. A few leave Bakerton for the big cities, but the ties to their family and their old home remain strong. I really like Haigh's writing style, weaving the story back and forth between the characters, and back and forth in time, providing an interesting perspective on the passage of time. The descriptions of the town of Bakerton are very familiar to those of us who grew up in small midwestern towns--the ethnic communities, the close knit neighborhoods, the small family-owned stores, and then the inevitable demise of the town, as modernization and 'progress' takes place. This isn't a page turner, but it is an interesting and well-written story.