Reviews for News from Heaven : The Bakerton Stories


Booklist Reviews 2013 January #1
In this collection of interlinked short stories, Haigh returns to Bakerton, Pennsylvania, and the characters she created for Baker Towers (2005). As the once prosperous mining town crumbles around the residents, family secrets are uncovered, lessons are learned, and the inhabitants seem to discover that the world around them is not the sum of the world, indeed. "Beast and Bird" finds a young woman working as a maid to a Jewish family in New York City--a very different kind of place from her family's farm in Pennsylvania. "Something Sweet" follows a spinster teacher and her star pupil, a young man who is adored by the girls but beaten by his male classmates for being different. And in "What Remains," the town sees the last remaining heir to the Baker Brothers coal mines suffer an ignoble death. Haigh has a gift for creating believable characters of all kinds and placing them into realistic--often heartbreaking--situations. A must-read for fans of Baker Towers and a good addition to all short story collections. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #1
Despite its treacly title, this collection of short stories shows depth, understanding and compassion rather than sentimentality. Most of the stories take place in or near Bakerton, Pa., populated largely by Polish and Italian Catholic immigrants. "Beast and Bird," the initial story in the collection, takes us back to World War II and focuses on the life of Annie Lubicki, a serving girl for the Nudelmans in New York City's Upper West Side. Annie's life is one of domestic dreariness and loneliness. She meets a potential boyfriend, Jim, on a double date, but his anti-Semitism troubles her. Instead, she feels drawn to Daniel Nudelman, the son in the family, but she's displaced when the Nudelmans' nephew permanently "visits" from Poland to escape the ravages of the war. In "Broken Star," Regina's Aunt Melanie comes to visit Regina along with her daughter, Tilly. Regina hasn't seen her aunt in over 12 years and questions the lengthy stay by relatives she feels are intrusive. Only years later does she discover that Melanie, who has died, was actually her sister and that Melanie had needed a kidney and was desperately looking for a donor who matched. "A Place in the Sun" introduces us to Sandy, who's trying to fight a gambling compulsion but counter-intuitively takes his girlfriend, Marnie, to Vegas to celebrate his birthday. We find that for years he's been trying to escape the life he left behind in Bakerton--a father who died in the mines and a "bleak small-town life worse than jail, a prison from which no one escaped." Haigh's narratives are beautifully realized stories of heartbreak, of qualified love and of economic as well as personal depression. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 September #2
Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as the Winship/PEN New England Award, the best-selling Haigh picks up where her Baker Towers left off, painting a portrait of company town Bakerton, PA, in a series of connected stories. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #1

These connected short stories, set in the coal-mining town of Bakerton, PA, span the 1940s to the present. Beautifully written and deeply moving, they feature characters whose lives have not turned out the way they had imagined. In "Beast and Bird," a young woman gets a brief taste of a very different life when she's hired as a maid for a wealthy family. In "Broken Star," the narrator belatedly understands her real relationship to her aunt. The main character in "A Place in the Sun" battles addiction to try to be the man everyone wants him to be. One character, Joyce Novak, appears in several of the stories at various points in her life, her struggles some of the most haunting in the book. Some episodes end painfully, but occasionally the protagonists rise up and find hope and strength amid the disappointments. All of their struggles linger in the mind. This is a masterly collection. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of Haigh's novel Baker Towers, which features some of the same characters, and of Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Strout, who also excel at re-creating small-town life. [See Prepub Alert., 8/27/12.]--Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC

[Page 64]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 January #3

After her success with Baker Towers (2005), Haigh returns to the familiarity of Bakerton, Pennsylvaniaâ??the small coal mining "town of churches and bars" where "everybody knows your business"â?? for this short story collection that weaves through the generations of hopes, dreams, and regrets of a community. A dwindling "company town" set with identical "company houses", the mines had "employed nearly every man in town," but when they fail the residents were left to flounder. Some leave for better opportunities, like 16 year-old Annie who heads to New York City, hired as a housekeeper by an Upper West Side family. Sandy also flees Bakerton, its "bleak small-town life worse than jail," but his life of moving and gambling give him no peace of mind. And there are those who stay, such as Sandy's dependable sister Joyce, who could never leave because "freedom is, to her, unimaginable, as exotic as walking on the moon." The melancholia of these interconnected stories exude guilt, disappointment, and terminated dreams alongside a quiet strength in the memories of each former or current resident. Haigh skillfully explores a community and their conflicting sentiments of family and responsibility against desires for a future beyond the narrow scope of their hometown. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Endeavor. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

After her success with Baker Towers (2005), Haigh returns to the familiarity of Bakerton, Pennsylvaniaâ??the small coal mining "town of churches and bars" where "everybody knows your business"â?? for this short story collection that weaves through the generations of hopes, dreams, and regrets of a community. A dwindling "company town" set with identical "company houses", the mines had "employed nearly every man in town," but when they fail the residents were left to flounder. Some leave for better opportunities, like 16 year-old Annie who heads to New York City, hired as a housekeeper by an Upper West Side family. Sandy also flees Bakerton, its "bleak small-town life worse than jail," but his life of moving and gambling give him no peace of mind. And there are those who stay, such as Sandy's dependable sister Joyce, who could never leave because "freedom is, to her, unimaginable, as exotic as walking on the moon." The melancholia of these interconnected stories exude guilt, disappointment, and terminated dreams alongside a quiet strength in the memories of each former or current resident. Haigh skillfully explores a community and their conflicting sentiments of family and responsibility against desires for a future beyond the narrow scope of their hometown. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Endeavor. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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