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 Baker Towers

by Jennifer Haigh

"Baker Towers tells the rich, enveloping story of one Polish-Italian family in the small Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Bakerton -- where the sardonically named 'towers' of the title are two huge heaps of sulfurous waste from the mines. When it comes to employment, Baker Brothers, the mine-owning company that dates back to the 1880's, is the only game in town. For most of the men in Bakerton, life is centered underground, governed by hard work and rigorous routine, experienced at a perpetual temperature of 50 degrees. Life offers more distinct fears and frustrations for the book's women. With much of Baker Towers unfolding against the backdrop of World War II, and later amid a postwar work force jolted by the influx of returning soldiers, the assorted Novak sisters are caught between eagerness to escape Bakerton and the scarcity of real alternatives elsewhere." -- New York Times