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Jennifer Haigh's second novel is set in a small town in Pennsylvania in the industrial boom that followed World War II. It is an intimate portrait of love and family. Jennifer Haigh has been compared with Anne Tyler and Carol Shields Her first novel, Mrs Kimble, won the Pen/Hemingway Award for first fiction
Jennifer Haigh is the author of the critically acclaimed Mrs Kimble, for which she won the Pen/Hemingway Award. She grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and now lives in Hull, Massachusetts.
Adult/High School-The eponymous towers of the title are the still-smoldering slag heaps from the coal mines of Bakerton, PA. That the town was named after the mines rather than the other way around sets them firmly at the center of the lives of the inhabitants. The novel focuses on five siblings following the death of their father in 1944, and progresses through the late '60s. Of Italian and Polish extraction, they all have Bakerton firmly rooted in their psyches even as they attempt to move away. Georgie leaves the army and marries, uncomfortably, into Philadelphia society, Dorothy attempts to fit into wartime D.C., and Joyce goes into the military too late for wartime responsibility. Meanwhile, spoiled and handsome Sandy moves away to find his fortune and comes back to hide from some shady associates, and baby Lucy finishes college yet follows her heart back to Bakerton. Each time frame is clearly limned, from the Washington of white gloves and fake silk stockings to the falling away of old loyalties and habits in the '60s. Eventually, the mines close with a frightening cave-in, but not before readers have become achingly aware of the lives of the citizens of the town. Teens will identify with the need to escape from one's origins, but they may also realize how unlikely real escape is. There is as much to admire in the lives of the townspeople as there is to escape. The place and times of the towers are vividly drawn, and young adults may see the universality in their specifics.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Praise for Jennifer Haigh and her first novel, Mrs Kimble: 'A truly impressive first novel! a mere summary cannot do justice to this engaging story. Haigh is an astute observer of human nature and every one of her many characters is well-drawn. In her writing and storytelling style, there are echoes of Anne Tyler, one of the greatest exponents of the contemporary American novel. Mrs Kimble is a remarkably assured and imaginative debut.' Irish Examiner 'A chilling and beautifully written first novel.' Good Housekeeping 'A clever, admirable novel. The three Mrs Kimbles present the whole gamut of family values gone awry.' Washington Post 'Beautiful, devastating and complex.' Chicago Tribune
Baker towers, the piles of slag dumped near the railroad siding for the Baker Coal Mines, are the reason that pre-World War II Bakerton, PA, exists; the company is the town, and the town is the company. The Novak family lives in a company house in the town's Polish section, shops at the company store, goes to the company hospital, and lives by the company time clock. When Stanley Novak drops dead from a massive heart attack, he leaves behind a wife and five children who must struggle to survive. During the war, employment is not too difficult to find-even for the girls-but finding a place in the world is a little more challenging. The children leave home and return. The miners go on strike. The eldest daughter marries the high school principal. The second-oldest daughter shocks her family by consorting with a divorced Italian. A catastrophic explosion eventually closes down the mines. The town, however, remains, and life continues as the world moves on. In her second novel (after Mrs. Kimble), PEN/Hemingway Award winner Haigh uses evocative prose to create a picture of a company town-and of the human condition-that is both accurate and moving. Recommended.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.