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Baker Towers

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,148 Ratings  ·  456 Reviews
In a stunning follow-up to her bestselling debut, Mrs. Kimble, Jennifer Haigh returns with Baker Towers, a compelling story of love and loss in a western Pennsylvania mining town in the years after World War II.

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
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Published January 4th 2005 by HarperAudio (first published January 1st 2000)
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Will Byrnes
May 02, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baker Towers is a family saga set in the fictional mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. It begins with the death of the Novak family head in 1944 (although there are references to events that happened before this) and ends in the 1970s, when the town has begun to fall into decline. Haigh tracks the lives of the Novak family through the intervening decades, chronicling the impact of change in American society on this small town, and its characters. There are five children in the Novak clan. Whe ...more
May 11, 2013 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: will byrnes
I was well satisfied with the page-by-page flow of the narrative but came away with only a limited emotional engagement in the characters and community portrayed. The story concerns a family in the coal-mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, whose Polish father dies, leaving the Italian mother, Rose Novak, to raise the five kids. Each makes an escape from the hardscrabble life in the economically declining town, but four find their way back, drawn paradoxically by a sense of home they never did ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Sandie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who grew up in small town America and love nostalgia
For this reader Baker Towers held a very personal message. It reversed the passage of time and took me on a vicarious trip back to the small town of my youth. In describing Bakerton, Jennifer Haigh accurately captured the essence of small town America in the 1940's , 50's and 60's where parents from the "old country" worked hard in an attempt to ensure that their offspring would have a chance at the American Dream. Haigh's Bakerton could easily have been the small, predominently Polish, steel-mi ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-deals
Coming from a small town and one-time mining town, I found myself completely enamored with BAKER TOWERS, and those little idiosyncrasies that define small town life: the unwillingness to escape, the focus on comfort and the familiar, the constantly churning gossip mill, the quaint downtown, the neat little streets, and the emphasis on family. Had this been the only endearing part of the novel, it still would have been a worthwhile read. But Jennifer Haigh offers her readers so much more. She tak ...more
Lea Ann
Feb 28, 2011 Lea Ann rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Baker Towers begins with the death of Stanley Novak and then follows the five Novak Children, George, Dorothy, Joyce, Sandy, and Lucy through almost three decades of events. The story takes place in Bakerton, a town built on the coal mining industry and founded by the Baker brothers - owners of twelve separate mines that employ almost the entire town.

I enjoyed reading about a small town and the unique life led by those who live in company houses, shop at the company store, and basically live an
Oct 05, 2009 Clif rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were to title this book, I'd call it "Drowning"

Life in a small industrial town isn't heaven as novelists have told us before. Haigh tells an interesting story involving the members of a Italian/Polish family from the WWII years into the 1960's. Her characters, particularly those who are female, are well developed and the events are quite believable. Literally or figuratively no one escapes alive.

A sense of rootedness covers everyone like a blanket of coal dust covers the town. All success i
Jul 24, 2008 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at the Pittsburgh airport two years ago while traveling for work. I loved her previous book, Mrs. Kimble. Little did I know until Baker Heights that the author grew up less than 20 miles from where I did. She knows that area -- impoverished and spirit-broken. Baker Heights told the story of the real Barnsboro-area coal mines. My grandfather lost his arm in a mining accident not far from there.
Jul 18, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booksreadin2007
I really enjoyed Jennifer Haighs first book, "Mrs. Kimble" and was looking forward to her second novel. This book did not disappoint. Instead of following three wives, as her previous novel, this book traces the lives of a family (specially the relationship between siblings) dealing with tragedy, changing economics and different personalities. It wasn't quite five stars but definitely a book I'd recommend.
Jun 29, 2012 Mayda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this character driven story, author Jennifer Haigh paints a dramatic picture of life in a small coal mining town in the years following World War II. As the young men who survived the war come home, jobs are scarce for men and women alike. Working in the coal mines or the dress factory is about all that is available, and the men know where their destiny lies. But mining is hard, dangerous work, and the thought of pending tragedy is never far from people’s minds. Against this backdrop, Haigh h ...more
Jul 03, 2011 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

So interesting how I came to read THIS novel by Jennifer Haigh. Katie recommended "Faith," which was out in the library. However, as I searched for it, I found "Baker Towers" and "The Condition." "The Condition" sounded better to me, but then I thought, "Oh maybe Mom would like 'Baker Towers'." So I took out both. Coincidently, when I next checked my emails, I somehow stumbled upon Katie's positive review of "Baker Towers." I loved it for many reasons. Let me count the ways:

1. It's a good family
This book is character-driven, not plot-driven. The author does a wonderful job of sucking me into the book and wondering what happens next with each person, and thankfully doesn't leave a lot of random chapters in between big events, which seems to happen a lot in books I read (which prompts me to skip ahead and then ruin the book). The only problem is that it might not be that memorable. It was very good, but not full of sparkles and something I will necessarily remember reading later.

It turne
Dec 01, 2015 Noor rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book because I thought the plot had a lot of potential and it was going to be a simple, feel-good kind of read. Even halfway through the book, I was sure there was going to be an amazing twist. However it never came! I expected more from the book and was kind of let down. The time jump and the shift in perspectives was confusing and instead of making the story intriguing made it annoying. The author could have made the time transition a lot smoother, and since the entire book was in ...more
Jan 07, 2016 Jocelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually read historical fiction, but I picked one up recently called Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh. It follows the lives of 5 children in Bakerton PA, a small mining town, starting in the 1940s. At the start of the book Stanley Novak, coal miner and father of 5, dies shortly after returning home from work. His wife, Rose, is left to raise the children. George, the oldest, is already away from home serving in the armed forces. Dorothy is about to graduate from high school, Joyce is a few ...more
Sep 11, 2013 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read Jennifer Haigh’s later book, FAITH and found it moving and memorable. This earlier book is a family saga that follows the five siblings of a Polish/Italian couple from World War II up to the Vietnam War. Baker Towers is just as deserving of high praise. The setting is a fictional mining town (Bakerton) in central Pennsylvania that mirrors the significant pace of change during these years in the Novak family. The roles and relationships or the brothers and sisters as they experience an ...more
CoffeeBook Chick
For my full review, click here:

...Bakerton, Pennsylvania is made up of residents who are Swedish, Polish, and Italian immigrants, with the coal mine employing a good majority. In the Novak family, the home is traditional to the time and place. Rose and Stanley, first-generations to America, live in Polish Hill in company-owned housing. Rose, an Italian wife and mother, remains at home to take care of their five children, and her Polish husband, Stanley, w
Nov 28, 2011 Jaclyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bakerton, Pennsylvania is a mining town. It's a town of company houses and union jobs, of church and family. Bakerton is a town that depends on its coal mines and, in the years during and after World War II, those mines are doing raging business. Baker Towers is the story of those years, told from the perspective of the Novak family: widowed Rose Novak and her five children, Georgie, Dorothy, Joyce, Sandy and Lucy. Georgie and Dorothy escape their small-town childhoods, Georgie for the Navy and ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like character development, American history buffs.
I enjoyed this book a lot.

Anyone who knows me understands my intense need for character development.

This book has it. That characters are unique, realistic, and provide insight into humanity.
We follow the journey of a family who has just lost their patriarch in a mid 20th century small coal mining town. We see how much coal mining effects the culture a town of immigrants.

If you are looking for a plot, there is little to be found here.
Instead is realistic account of people. Humans trying to surv
May 06, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nancy Price - Historical Fiction: Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh

The book opens with the image of a train snaking its way through the town: “rows of company houses, narrow and square; a main street of commercial buildings, quickly and cheaply built.” It provides us with the typical image of an industry town, with the American Dream just around the corner. The train carries coal down the mountain, through the valley, and into the homes of an America at war. The story tells us about the lives of th
Apr 15, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like Haigh's books and her characters. She's obviously fond of them and the reader grows to thoroughly understand each one, likeable or not. This family centered-book explores the part accident of birth order, appearance, gender, the setting of the childhood home, presence (and absence) of parents all play in how one "turns out". While it will not answer the "nature vs nurture" discussion, the exploration resulted in a lovely book.
Feb 23, 2012 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is the author's second novel and I did recommend this one to bookclub. Very good and fast read. Good descriptions of life in a coal mining community in the 1940's through the 60's. Was quite accurate in my mind about the way the family hierarchy can work from the mother (Rose) being the head and completely in charge until she becomes ill and aged and someone has to take over her position. There is always one in a group of siblings that ends up taking care of all the family's problems. There ...more
Mar 21, 2014 Cheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheri by: Will Byrnes
The 1940s in the mythical town of Bakerton, PA, is similar to what I imagine what many small mining towns in Pennsylvania and neighboring West Virginia were like. Slower paced, small town life where everyone knows you, your family, and everything that everyone does. The “have-nots” outnumber the “haves”, and chances are – if you are a teenage male, you have a relative working in the mines, and you’ve probably worked there a summer or two yourself. There is a comfort in knowing that you are welco ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Dee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baker Towers,is a story of a Polish-Italian family, the Novaks, with five children who come of age in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town during and after WWII. Head of the household Stanley Novak drops dead one afternoon after returning from the mines, leaving his Italian wife, Rose, to struggle on her own to feed her children and maintain the household. The book follows the life of each of the family members who take some interestng twists and turns as they grow up.

In describing Bakerton, Haigh ac
Dec 30, 2010 Dyana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, and altho this story was character driven with no real plot it's a realistic story about the basics of life and family. Baker towers refer to the 80 foot coal tipples that were created from collected waste in the small Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Bakerton. Beyond the descriptions of life in Bakerton during and after WWII, it's about the five Novak children - Georgie, Dorothy, Joyce, Sandy, and Lucy. It shows how they are each were affected by the changing economi ...more
Steve Lindahl
Apr 19, 2016 Steve Lindahl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting Baker Towers to be about the experience of working in a coal mine, since it takes place in a mining town. But this is the forties when gender roles were more clearly defined than they are today and Jennifer Haigh opted to emphasize the experience of the women. I was left with a clear understanding of how to clean a miner's clothes, but not how to dig coal. In some ways this choice made the book unique, but it also revealed how life in a coal town was like life in countless other ...more
Marie-Jo Fortis
Mar 26, 2015 Marie-Jo Fortis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drama or chronicle, which one is it? That’s the question I asked myself in the middle of this sober, at times poignant, occasionally gripping novel. Like the struggling town it describes, Bakers Towers contains its dead moments, however. Enough dead moments, in fact, for me to ask myself, “Should I go on?”

There is much merit in reconstructing a Pennsylvania miners’ town in the fifties. Attempting to create an interesting novel within the confines of conservative times and settings demands cons
Jan 19, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh thank you SO MUCH, Kelly!!!!! this was a great read. Seriously. Couldn't put it down. A sweeping story that spans the lives of the Novak family. I loved the writing and how fast paced it was and how real the characters were.
OMG. can't wait to read Mrs. Kimble.

May 30, 2012 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eh. What more can i say? I thought it would be a good book to listen to on cd, and the woman reading did the voices and accents well, but this book lacked substance. Nothing really ever happened. Coal mining town during the 1940's- I'm sure you can guess the plot. When I found I was missing the final cd, I even went to the library to borrow a hard copy and was put on the waiting list. Finished it within an hour and felt like I could have written the ending myself within a few mins.
Sara Van Dyck

Baker Towers and its sequel follow families in a coal-mining area of Pennsylvania. The style of the book is very straight-forward and unadorned as it unfolds the problems of each character. We watch the characters changing through the years but they often seem to drift, live with regrets, although perhaps that is exactly what these people would do. ”Bakerton did this to people: slowly, invisibly, it made them smaller, compressed by living where little was possible, where the ceiling was so very
Mar 09, 2014 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's typical for me to be drawn to family sagas--I realize more and more how much I enjoy observing the different personalities interacting and reacting within the family dynamic. But a topic I tend to avoid in books is industry...boring! I was a bit torn about whether or not to pick this off the shelf at Half-Price Books. Boy, I'm so glad I listen to my gut--it rarely disappoints! The main reason I was interested in this story at all was because my mother's uncles were coal miners in a sma ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Mar 07, 2016 Suanne Laqueur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-five-stars
I really loved this book. I was swept up in the lives of the Novaks and all the inhabitants of Bakerton. Haigh writes convincingly of family and small town relations, as well as of the frustrations of American poverty. Highly recommend.
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Jennifer Haigh is an American novelist and short story writer. Her novel FAITH, about a beloved Boston priest accused of a molesting a child in his parish, explores the consequences of this accusation for an entire community. Haigh's critically acclaimed debut novel MRS. KIMBLE won the 2004 PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction. Later books include the New York Times bestsellers THE CONDITION and ...more
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