Tuesday, March 05, 2013

NEWS FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer Haigh

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I absolutely loved Jennifer Haigh's book FAITH so I was intrigued to read her latest book.  Although this current book references her previous work, BAKER TOWERS, I do not believe it is necessary to have read the first book. (I didn't.)  This book reminded me a great deal of Alice Hoffman's RED GARDEN.  Both books use a series of stories to tell the tale of a specific place.  Each chapter deals with a different story or moment in the town's history. While characters may appear in other chapters, a particular story goes no further than a single chapter. This both keeps the book fresh and also makes it frustrating. Sometimes it feels that you are just getting into one character's story when the chapters ends. You may or may not discover what happens to that particular character.

Bakerton, Pennsylvania is a coal town. Fortunes are made and lost based on the performance of the mines.  The book begins early on in the town's history and ends in the near present. We see the rise and fall of the town as well as its inhabitants.  We see the generations of families in Bakerton as their lives are affected and shaped by their hometown.  There are themes of loss, redemption, regret and acceptance running all through the book.  More than anything, this is the story of a town rather than of particular individuals.  A story told in the little details of moments of the town's history. This structure may be frustrating for some readers but I find it ultimately rewarding.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  An in-depth glance at the rise and fall of a small mining town that many will find very moving.

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