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Baker Towers

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  4,147 ratings  ·  596 reviews
Jennifer Haigh's first novel, Mrs. Kimble, was an auspicious debut about three women who marry the same man--consecutively--and their ability to kid themselves about who he is, and, more to the point, who they are. It won the PEN/Hemingway Award, given annually for best first fiction. Haigh has beaten the sophomore slump with another page-turner: Baker Towers. The action, ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by William Morrow (first published December 30th 2004)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  4,147 ratings  ·  596 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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. ...more
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Baker Towers' by Jennifer Haigh is a family story... the story of the Novak family of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. The Novaks are a 'mixed' family of sorts, begun by the marriage between a Polish father and an Italian mother which in the 1940s when this story begins is not particularly looked upon with favor by the community. But 'Baker Towers' is NOT just the story of the Novak family. In a broader sense, it is the story of a Pennsylvania coal mining town. Bakerton is fictional but in my opinion it ...more
Feb 13, 2013 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 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, ...more
Jun 24, 2012 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 ...more
Jul 24, 2008 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.
Lea Ann
Feb 08, 2011 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
Jan 04, 2013 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 ...more
Jul 18, 2007 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.
May 03, 2013 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 ...more
Oct 05, 2009 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
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.

Book Concierge
Audio book performed by Anna Fields.
3.5*** rounded up to 4****

Adapted from the book jacket: Bakerton is a company town built on coal, a town of church festivals and ethnic neighborhoods, hunters’ breakfasts and firemen’s parades. The looming black piles of mine dirt (are called) Baker Towers; they are local landmarks, clear evidence that the mines are booming. The mines were not named for Bakerton; Bakerton was named for the mines. This is an important distinction. It explains the order of
Jul 03, 2011 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
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 09, 2011 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
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,
Nov 05, 2015 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 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 ...more
Nov 01, 2008 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
Feb 23, 2012 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
Dec 26, 2010 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 ...more
Diane S ☔
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
Apr 15, 2015 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 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
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.

Suanne Laqueur
Sep 29, 2014 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.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This book has the distinction of having been the first book on my "to read" list on Goodreads since April 5, 2011. I've seen its cover taunting me at the top of that long list for years and just kept ignoring it. I'd read other books by Haigh and really liked them, so not sure what held me back. Well. This was WONDERFUL. I started it yesterday, got sucked in, and finished it this morning. She has a way of writing that I really enjoy, but is hard for me to describe. I care about the characters, ...more
Jeffrey Hart
This novel is set in Bakerton, a coal-mining town in Western Pennsylvania. The title refers to the two very tall coal slag piles that are a feature of the town. The plot centers on the fate of the children of a coal miner who dies relatively young of a heart attack. The children grow up and some move away but they all remained tied to the town. The author does an excellent job of explaining how such towns changed over time. Since I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, I can attest to the accuracy of ...more
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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