This book concentrates on the lives of five children of a mine worker in a small Pennsylvania town peopled by descendents of immigrants from Poland, living on Polish Hill, and Italy, who live in Little Italy, at a time when such distinctions mattered. It opens just before the US entered World War II and follows their lives into the Vietnam era. With unblinking eyes, Haigh shows us a world far removed from the myth of the fifties as the idyllic American decade.
Each child, as he and she grows, simultaneously despises and loves the company house in the company town that they all call home. One by one the siblings make their bid for life away from the little town but each is drawn back by obligation, necessity or love. Each struggles to understand their place in the world and to make the best of it. They are pulled between the traditions of their Catholic parents and community and the call of the exciting, growing world of the mid-twentieth century.
Haigh’s style is what sets this book apart. With just a few simple words she can paint portraits of the town and its people that are rich with depth. Her characters are more than real as she takes you into their lives and makes you cheer with their successes and ache with their defeats. With love and honesty for her subject, Haigh creates a world that both tests and rewards in its starkness leaving the reader with is a breathtaking look at life – beautiful and terrible at the same time.