Tuesday, December 06, 2011
[Book Review] BAKER TOWERS by Jennifer Haigh
Andrea reviews BAKER TOWERS by Jennifer Haigh (William Morrow, 2005)
Author’s note: “The mines were not named for Bakerton; Bakerton was named for the mines. This is an important distinction. It explains the order of things."
Set in the 1940’s coal mining region of Pennsylvania, this story centers on the Novak family. Polish father and husband, Stanley, dies from black lung (a condition developed from working in the mines), leaving behind his Italian wife, Rose, with five children to raise single-handedly. As much as the children know they have obligations to take care of Rose as well as each other, all of them are desperate to escape the claustrophobic small town of Bakerton.
Oldest son George joins the war overseas and Dorothy, the next oldest daughter, moves to New York to work in a typing pool and live in an all-girls’ boarding house. Middle son, Sandy, and middle daughter Joyce, are able to get out of the small town by traveling across the country and joining the Air Force, respectively. Lucy, the baby, seems most likely to be the one who will escape the confines of Bakerton as she studies to be a nurse after college. Never mind the dreams the adult children have for themselves and their growing families, obligations to Rose and Bakerton’s townspeople keep luring them back.
Told equally from the points of view of the five children, readers will feel like they are in the story with each of them. Haigh’s writing style romanticizes the 1940’s but also gives readers realistic imagery of the era. Readers will also appreciate the expanding Novak family’s closeness with each other and their fellow townspeople.
This is a well-written novel with beautiful, nostalgic scenery and solid characters. I highly recommend it.
Andrea King, Poplar-White Station Library