Monday, February 14, 2011

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh - a guest review by Lea Ann

***Periodically I will feature guest reviewers on this site - this is Lea Ann's second review.  You can read her first here.

Book:  Baker Towers

Author:  Jennifer Haigh

Grade:  C

Recommended To:  Blue Collar Fiction Fans

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 and die by the company.

The main problem with Baker Towers is that Haigh seems to take on more than can be handled in a 330 page novel. She jumps through time and narrative point of view without grounding the reader. Within the first 50 pages the reader discovers that Lucy was born in 1942, but when George comes back into town driving his 1948 Cadillac, she is only four years old - this was an oversight that bothered me through the rest of the book. Although I never bothered to check on the math again, I was increasingly frustrated by the large chunks of time that were simply skipped over.

Haigh didn't spend enough time with a single character to make the reader engaged in their story. Just as I was interested in what was happening to the character of focus, the chapter abruptly ended, the time jumped anywhere from two to ten years, and I was seeing through the eyes of an entirely different Novak sibling. The jumps left some narrative themes or facts completely uncovered and baffling.

In the end I wasn't invested enough in any of the characters to really know what sort of development the characters made or to understand why they would have changed. The book either should have been much longer or simply tried to tell a smaller story.

Happy Reading!

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