News from Heaven.

Author:Haigh, Jennifer
Position:The Bakerton Stories - Book review

The Bakerton Stories

By Jennifer Haigh

A graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the granddaughter of coal miners, and a native of a Pennsylvania coal town, Jennifer Haigh has pubpublished four novels: Mrs. Kimble (*** May/June 2003), Baker Towers (**** SELECTION Mar/Apr 2005), The Condition (2008), and Faith (**** Sept/Oct 2011). News from Heaven, her first short story collection, returns to Bakerton, Pennsylvania, the fictional town introduced in Baker Towers.


THE STORY: Most of these 10 stories take place around the depressed coalmining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, over the last half century--from the town's boom before World War II to its postindustrial decline, as the town's largely Polish and Italian Catholic population wanders in and out of stories. In the opening tale, "Beast and Bird," a girl leaves Bakerton to serve as a maid to a wealthy Jewish family in Manhattan during World War II but returns disillusioned. "Thrift" tells of a 50-year-old nurse discovering love (and sex!) for the first time--with an ex-con who lives in a trailer. In another story, a gambling addict takes his girlfriend to Las Vegas; later, his sister narrates his fate. News is not always heavenly in Bakerton, but the characters overcome their heartbreak, depression, loss, longing, and hard times by searching for happiness in unlikely places.

Harper. 244 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780060889647

Boston Globe ****

"Each of these 10 linked stories represents a distinct, shining example of Haigh's remarkable gifts for lyricism, psychological insight, and stealth humor, drawing characters who might seem boringly ordinary in the hand of a lesser talent. Haigh's confident, light touch makes each of them fascinating, multidimensional, compellingly complex." MEREDITH MARAN

Chicago Tribune ****

"With this collection Haigh does a literary strip mine of the territory. The stories span the 20th century, taking some characters as far afield as a Jewish home in Manhattan and the high stakes and low life of Las Vegas. Haigh creates characters that may be deeply rooted in a place and yet carry its burden in wildly different ways." ELIZABETH TAYLOR

Kansas City Star ****

"Each story in News From Heaven is astounding in its own way, a selfcontained and wholly satisfying unit, but it's a collection that seems meant to be read in one sitting, a book with an arresting emotional power greater than the sum of its parts. Haigh writes with intimacy and empathy...

To continue reading