Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh

I picked up Baker Towers on a whim at a discount bookstore. I had never heard of the book or the author. But the blurb on the back sounded engaging. I'm really glad I got the book. Haigh's novel grew on me as I read it. By today I wanted the peace and quiet to sit down and finish the story uninterrupted.

Jennifer Haigh has an interesting quality of saying a lot in a very few words. The story revolves around a miner's family in World War II-era Pennsylvania. In the first moments the father, a coal miner, keels over dead. The rest of the book follows his children as they navigate the world they inhabit from youth to adulthood. There are two sons and three daughters in the family who all take very different paths which continue to intersect.

Dorothy, the eldest daughter, moves to Washington DC to work as a stenographer to help out her family. Joyce, the middle daughter, enlists in the Navy after the War is over, returning home when her mother's health fails. Lucy, the baby, struggles with her weight and navigating a world devoid of me. George, the eldest son, returns from the War with grandiose desires he cannot fulfill. Sandy is the golden child of the family, yet he's always on the periphery of everyone's concerns. Each of the children, and eventually the grandchildren, flit in and out of their hometown and one another's lives as their circumstances change.

Haigh's writing is light but imbued with a lot of depth. She does not dwell on unnecessary explanations of feelings. Nor does she spend overmuch time describing imagery. Yet with a short turn of phrase an entire conversation makes sense. Although the book is only 320 pages long it feels like a much longer story. She intertwines the voice of the family members in a way to see a clear picture of their life through many eyes.

An unexpected pleasure. I hoped for a good book. I found a really well-written treasure about a time and place I personally really enjoy.

No comments: