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Baker Towers

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  2,926 ratings  ·  435 reviews
Bakerton is a community of company houses and church festivals, of union squabbles and firemen's parades. Its neighborhoods include Little Italy, Swedetown, and Polish Hill. For its tight-knit citizens -- and the five children of the Novak family -- the 1940s will be a decade of excitement, tragedy, and stunning change. Baker Towers is a family saga and a love story, a hym ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2000)
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Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
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 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Jul 15, 2008 Sandie rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
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.
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

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
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
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 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Marie-Jo Fortis
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
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.

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
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
I enjoyed the book mainly because I could relate to many cultural aspects of the story. Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I was hooked early on with the mention of the train between Altoona (I live about 45 minutes away) and Pittsburgh. And a lot of the Slavic customs are familiar from my upbringing (I'm Polish), and throw in the fact that my sister now lives in the western part of the state and married into an Italian family -- I was hooked. The jumps in time bothered me a bit. I would have l ...more
I really enjoyed this book. It is about the deep mines and the culture of central Pennsylvania starting in the 1940's. The small mining town is set about 40 miles from my hometown and it was a great read.
A family in coal mining Pennsylvania loses Dad, Arthur to the body ravages of the mines. Thus begins the odyssey of the Novak family as they are each affected by dad's death and their growing up in a mining community. The eldest is George who is in the army during WW2 when dad dies. He eventually marries a selfish woman and wishes that he had married the home town girl. Dorothy escapes Bakerton at first opportunity for a job in DC, but it doesn't turn out as she wished. The third child is the pr ...more
I've read all of Jennifer Haigh's books, and her latest, "Faith," is one of the best I've ever read. The rest of her books are good, but not quite as engaging as "Faith."
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Mansfield Public ...: Baker Towers Review by Karin Dionne 1 3 Jul 31, 2013 07:32AM  
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Jennifer Haigh is an American novelist and short story writer. Her most recent novel, FAITH (HarperCollins, 2011), tells the story of a beloved Boston priest accused of a molesting a child. Her previous novels include the New York Times bestsellers THE CONDITION and BAKER TOWERS, winner of the 2006 PEN/L. L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author. Her critically acclaimed debut ...more
More about Jennifer Haigh...
Faith The Condition Mrs. Kimble News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories The Boy Vanishes

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