Jennifer Haigh's second novel is an intimate portrait of love and family, which will appeal to fans of Anne Tyler and Carol Shields. Stanley Novak is a first-generation Polish immigrant. Seeking a better life, he settles in Bakerton and finds work in the booming local mine. He meets and marries Rose, a shy, beautiful Italian girl. They move to a mine-owned house in an area of town known as Polish Hill, teeming with immigrants from all over Europe, all chasing the American Dream. Five children follow for the Novaks. The Novak children belong to what will someday be known as the Greatest Generation, but for now, they are just trying to find their identities in a vastly changing world. The five children could not be more different. The eldest, George, avoids signing up but is drafted to the Pacific when America joins the war. He comes home determined to leave Bakerton behind, but finds it much more difficult the second time around. Dorothy is a fragile and naive girl, who finds it hard to cope with her desk job in Washington. Joyce, fiercely intelligent, must hold the family together and remains bitterly aware of the life that she could have had. Sandy, the youngest boy, swans through life with his movie-star looks, never taking responsibility for his actions. And Lucy, the youngest, must find her own path in the shadow of her formidable siblings. Haigh gives us a beautiful snapshot of a small town -- of company houses and union squabbles; the boom and bust of the post-war years; the immigrant neighbourhoods of Swedetown, Little Italy and Polish Hill; the miners, undertakers, soldiers, firemen and housewives who populate the town and bring it to life.
I think ever since I became addicted to Downton Abbey and the whole WW theme surrounding it, I've been on a World War kick, devouring any book, tv series or movie I can get my hands on.
To be honest that is what first caught my eye with this book. Not just the summary but the beautiful cover.
The novel is centered on the Pennsylvania coal town of Bakerton, and the towers in the title are actually two piles of mine waste, two bigs towers of coal and dirt, always there, always reminding everyone.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book, following the lives of the Novak children in the aftermath of the death of their father. We get to see how the characters develop, what they want from life and how they go about getting it. The boys eventually leave the small town which is something they've been yearning to do all their lives, but the girls in the family end up leaving only to return to the place that pulls at their heart strings.
I think Jennifer Haigh did a phenomenal job with this book, she captivates an era that is still drawing attention to this day and she pulls you right in.