Jennifer Haigh’s ‘News from Heaven’ is a collection of interwoven short stories that bring to life multi-generations of characters who share a common tether; they have all lived, worked, loved and lost in the coal mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. The residents of the town, mostly of Polish, Irish and Italian descent, still subscribe to the customs and culture of their homelands and, with each generation, attempt to meld the current culture with their past. In this beautiful book, Haigh evokes sentiment without sappiness and creates fully flushed characters in the span of single chapters.
This read is a generous slice of Americana and a tribute to small towns. If you have grown up in one you will recognize Haigh’s characters and identify with the events and decisions that keep many of its residents rooted in place. Haigh understands how the livelihood of an area impacts not only the economy but the culture of the place. For the residents of Bakerton, the coal mine plays the role of savior, and often that of captor.
Jennifer Haigh is a gifted storyteller whose books ‘Mrs Kimble (2003) and ‘Faith (2011) I have read and also recommend. Upon finishing ‘News from Heaven’ I discovered that it is a sequel to Haigh’s novel ‘Baker Towers’ (2005). I just pulled the library copy off the shelf and checked it out. I am looking forward to spending more quality time with quality characters.