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News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories - Jennifer Haigh

 

I enjoyed this collection of short stories, but it reminds me so much of The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman that I just read a couple of weeks ago.  Both contain stories that all take place in the same town over a period of years (except one in this collection) with most characters only showing up in one story although they may be mentioned or play a tiny role in an additional story. News from Heaven does not span several centuries as The Red Garden does; it only takes place over about 90 years or so in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania.

 

I listened to the audiobook version which was narrated by several people.  It is amazing to me how the narrator can have a tremendous impact on the enjoyment of a book.  Although I enjoyed all of the stories, there were a couple in which I just did not care for the voice of the narrator.  One story, the only one set not in Bakerton, but in Las Vegas was narrated by a man who sounded like he was lowering his voice the way someone does when they are trying to sound tough.  I don’t think that’s what he was actually doing since the character wasn’t trying to be tough, it’s just the way this man sounds.  It just irritated me though and I almost skipped that story because of the irritation.  The only reason I didn’t was because the story was set in Las Vegas where I lived for several years.  It was about the old Vegas in the 60s that I never got to experience.  So I finally forgot to hate his voice and enjoyed the story.  Same thing with the narrator on the last story.  At first I wasn’t sure if the narrator was a woman (which she was).  It sounded very much, to me, like the voice of the Munchkin mayor in the Wizard of Oz.  Very bizarre.

 

 Other than these issues with the narrator’s voices, these stories were nice with nothing especially to recommend or dislike about them.  They are nice way to spend a few hours, but I don’t think any of the stories will stick in my head for very long.  I was unaware that Bakerton is the setting of a novel by Jennifer Haigh and that some of the characters in the novel are in these short stories as well.  I may have to check out Baker Towers since I would generally prefer the more fleshed out characters in a novel better.