News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories

Jennifer Haigh (Faith) sets the interconnected short stories of News from Heaven in fictional Bakerton, Pa., a tight-knit community that was once a thriving coal-mining town. She shines a spotlight on some of the townspeople--those who have stayed and those who have fled--and how Bakerton remains a part of who they are, the fabric of their very being, even amid a world that's ever-evolving.

The stories take place from World War II through the end of the 20th century. The past might be past, but it remains active amid each of these 10 sensitively drawn tales: a young Polish girl moves from Bakerton to New York City to become a housemaid for a Jewish family; a teenager's life is upended when a long-lost aunt returns to town; the tragic homecoming of a wayward brother transcends his sister's perceptions; a 50-year-old woman finds love for the first time; a widow is forced to view the sad truth about her deceased husband's life.

Themes of struggle, loss, regret and acceptance emerge as Haigh weaves subtle glimmers of spirituality amid personal epiphanies that surprise in unexpected ways and reform each story with deeper meaning. Fans of Haigh's work will be pleased to find some characters returning from her debut novel, Baker Towers, but it's not necessary to have read that book before savoring these poignant, compassionately told stories. News from Heaven, however, might prove the perfect inspiration to seek it out. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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