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Baker Towers

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  3,380 Ratings  ·  482 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
May 02, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2016 Portia rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this book five stars, I really did. Ms. Haigh beautifully recreates life in a Pennsylvania coal town from the end of Word War II to the end of the Viet Nam Era. She's spot on with so many details such as being able to know who died by which family's hearse is parked in front of a house. She paints an exquisite picture of coming over a hill and having the valley open up before you with its company-built houses huddling an arms-length apart. There used to be a sulfur hill that glo ...more
May 11, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 24, 2008 Diana rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Lea Ann
Feb 28, 2011 Lea Ann rated it it was ok
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
Jun 29, 2012 Mayda rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 05, 2009 Clif rated it liked it
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 03, 2011 Jean rated it it was amazing

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
Jul 05, 2016 Karin rated it really liked it
One of those lovely, quiet books that feels like it's about the quotidian but when you're finished with it, you can see it's more about larger themes in life. It follows five siblings after the death of their father over the course of decades, and you see how their small mining town changes as well. I'm eager to start the sequel now, called News From Heaven.
Mar 07, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
Feb 06, 2012 CoffeeBook Chick rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sarah Limberger
Aug 14, 2016 Sarah Limberger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book. The story of the Novak family made me homesick for the small town I've never lived in. I wouldn't say it's necessarily a happy story, but it's realistic and full of potential for redemption, for hope (e.g., seeing various characters come to terms with and make right the poor choices they made, make huge sacrifices for the good of their families) - and those are my favorite kind of books.
Dec 30, 2010 Dyana rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 20, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
3.5 I really identified quite a bit with this novel. Reminded me so much of my neighborhood in Chicago, how everyone knew each other and knew everyone else's business as well. This is about a mining town and the book follows a particular family, headed by Rose, who I really liked. She was an Italian but marries a Polish man. They have five children and her husband works in the mines. It is also about the death of a town and a way of life, when the mine fails things in town start closing down and ...more
Sep 04, 2016 Janet rated it liked it
This was a book club book. Bakerton, somewhere in SW PA, was a company town. The purpose of the town was to provide a living for the workers in the Baker Mines, owned by the Baker Bros.
The town was divided between the Polish and the Italians, with each immigrant population tending to live near each other. The Novaks were an exception, since mother Rose was Italian and father Stanley was Polish. They had five children. The three older siblings struggled to find their way in the world, strictly
Steve Lindahl
Apr 19, 2016 Steve Lindahl rated it it was amazing
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
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
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Jennifer Haigh is an American novelist and short story writer. Her new novel, HEAT AND LIGHT (Ecco, 2016), looks at a Pennsylvania town divided by the controversy over fracking. Her last 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
More about Jennifer Haigh...

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