Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh

Read 9/25/21

I really like Haigh’s writing and was thrilled to be able to read this on my Kindle as an advance reading copy from NetGalley. Thank you, NG!

I had not read any summaries or reviews prior to picking this up so I went in totally blind, which added a layer of suspense to what I felt was already a mildly suspenseful book. If not suspenseful, then definitely a book where I so wanted to know what would happen next and really had a hard time putting it down.

Mercy Street is a women’s health clinic in Boston and Claudia has worked there a long time. She is very familiar with the die hard abortion protestors. She is the main character, but the story is also told from the p.o.v. of a few other people who are connected to Claudia. I love when authors show you how characters are connected in ways that maybe even the characters don’t know. In this case there’s Claudia’s pot dealer, who seems very cool and amiable, even if his living conditions and career aren’t great choices. And there’s also a protestor as well as a total wackadoo guy who seems ready to unleash violence everywhere. I believe this character has a tie in to Baker Towers, which I loved. Will these characters all meet up? Will they see the connections? Will the violence unfold? Those were the questions that made me want to keep reading quickly, but, as in her other books, Haigh’s writing made me want to read slowly, savoring the descriptions and insights.
I would like everyone in Texas to read this book. In fact, I would like everyone to read this book, especially those who believe it’s ok to try to make decisions about other women’s healthcare. This was marvelously and honestly written.

Heat and light by Jennifer Haigh

I thought this was WONDERFUL and was glad I read it fairly soon after Baker Towers (which I also thought wonderful.) Even better–I was about halfway through as we began our road trip to Chicago, which meant driving straight across endless Pennsylvania (it is a dull drive between Philly and Pittsburgh, although a fairly pretty one.) I saw many places that looked like they could be Bakerton. I was seeing the setting for the book which was great and helped put it into perspective. It also did a good job of finally explaining fracking to me.
Like Baker Towers there were lots of different characters and threads. Also like Baker Towers I felt like many of the characters were really unlikable and also made poor choices. It was fairly depressing, especially since there’s not a neat ending.
Wonderfully written and I kept returning to thinking about it days after I finished.

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh

This book has the distinction of having been the first book on my “to read” list on Goodreads since April 5, 2011. I’ve seen its cover taunting me at the top of that (currently 375 items long) list for years and just kept ignoring it. I’d read other books by Haigh and really liked them, so not sure what held me back. Well. This was WONDERFUL. I started it yesterday, got sucked in, and finished it this morning. She has a way of writing that I really enjoy, but is hard for me to describe. I care about the characters, and yet the writing is very matter of fact, laying out what happens to everyone over the span of many many years. There were so many characters to get to know, each with their own story. And of course the whole setting and time were just ripe for making everyone’s lives sound interesting-WWII to the 1960s in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania. Immigrants living in different sections of town, strong cultural and religious traditions, little Company houses with no¬† phones (and fairly recent indoor plumbing), men dying at young ages from the back breaking lung blackening work of the coal mines. The focus is on one family and the five children in it. I loved everything about this.