Jennifer Haigh has won the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction for her 2013 short story collection, News from Heaven (Harper). The award was announced at the Massachusetts Library Association’s annual conference earlier this week.
The ten stories in News from Heaven follow up on the characters readers first met in Haigh’s acclaimed novel, Baker Towers, about the residents of the Pennsylvania mining town of Bakerton.
Having grown up in such a town, Haigh knows these people and the lives they lead. As a result, she writes about their difficult economic and emotional lives with compassion and lyricism. With the mining business in dramatic decline, the Bakerton locals are struggling to find their way forward through a range of personal and social challenges.
News from Heaven examines a town and a culture, and reveals the universal experiences of working people coping with a world in which change forces them to change more than just their jobs. Haigh’s collection is not a flashy post-postmodern work that flirts with science fiction, fantasy, and nihilism; it’s built on character-based scenarios that hit home with Haigh’s clear-eyed insights and flawless prose.
News from Heaven also won the PEN/New England fiction award on March 16. Clearly, those who know Jennifer Haigh’s writing best know the quality of her work. Don’t let her fly under your reading radar any longer. You can’t go wrong with Baker Towers, Faith, or News from Heaven.