Author: Jennifer Haigh
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: January 2006
Paperback: 368 pages
Source: purchased at used book sale
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Synopsis (from goodreads.com): 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. 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, devour's the family's attention and develops a bottomless appetite for love.
My Thoughts: I was drawn to this book because I really wanted to read Jennifer Haigh's latest novel, Faith, but since I didn't want to buy a book that I wasn't sure I would like, I thought this would be a good way to see if I liked Haigh's writing style. Well, the good news is that I really enjoyed Baker Towers and Haigh's writing style. The bad news is that I want to read more of her books!
This book is set during World War II, which really drew me to the book. It follows the 5 children of the Novak family as they grow and mature during the 1940s. With their father dead from year's of work in the local mines, the Novak children without a strong male presence in their lives and an Italian mother who married a Polish man and doesn't fit in with the rest of the Polish women in their neighborhood. The children all experience their small-town life in different yet similar ways. They all recognize that there must be something more out there, but they all all inexplicably drawn back to their home. Haigh's writing is clear and lets the story move quickly. It's descriptive without being too heavy. If there was one thing that I didn't like, it would be that towards the end, I felt like there was too much jumping around between the siblings. Instead of focusing on one sibling, each chapter would feature several of the siblings, which got to be a bit confusing. Also, Sandy was not in the book that much. I kept on wondering what was happening with him, where he was, but I guess we will never know.
If you are looking for a book set in a different time and that moves quickly, I would really recommend this book. Haigh's writing is clear and moves the story along at an enjoyable pace. After reading this, I will definitely be on the look out for more books by this author.