Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Book Recommendation: News From Heaven

I was up late last night reading Jennifer Haigh's new collection of interconnected short stories, News From Heaven.  So good. I'm astonished by how she writes about struggling people without making them pitiful or off-putting. That's tough to do. And even though the stories so far (I'm halfway through) are about people trying to move beyond the geographic & emotional confines of the small coal mining town where they were raised, it makes me nostalgic for small town life, where people have roots and know each other over the course of generations.

My husband Steve has those roots here in Cambridge. We live a few doors down from the house where he grew up, and he runs into someone he knows...or who knows his mother or sister, or bought candy at his grandfather's corner store back in the day...almost everywhere we go.  So I have roots-by-marriage, which is a nice thing in such a transient city.  I get to claim Tip O'Neill as my local hero (it was so fun explaining who he was to a wide-eyed Princess Peach as we looked at the new mural tribute to him on the side of our library) and appreciate the wonder of a resident parking pass (that might be the most valuable part of Cambridge property).


These stories made me think about how most of us long for roots. To be known, to have a support system to hold us firm when storm after storm rolls in. But even more that that, the title had me thinking about how I long for news from heaven. It's a brilliant title, tapping into something so many of us are looking for when we admire a huge full moon, or stare out across the ocean.  Or even when we sit with bad news we didn't see coming, struggling to make sense of our new reality. The possibility of news from heaven seems enticing, indeed.

I knew from past reading that a new book from Jennifer Haigh would be worth the wait, and this does not disappoint.  Highly recommended, both for the stories and the things they make you ponder as you turn each page :)

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