On occasion I'll encounter a book that leaves me altered. I put it down after reading and feel some kind of chemistry within me to be permanently changed. After having finished my third book by Haven Kimmel, I'm starting to think that her books will always do that to me. If you've never read, "A Girl Named Zippy" then you should put that on your to-do list immediately. Once you've accomplished that very worthwhile goal, read the book that comes after, "She Got Up Off the Couch". Then, start working on her fiction and we can talk.
Kimmel grew up in rural Indiana and her books are completely infused with everything she knows as a native. As a midwesterner, but having grown up in Kansas, we consider some place as far east as Indiana to be in the Midwest merely in theory. Sort of pseudo-midwesterners, but something about how she describes people and places speaks to me. Maybe anyone from any part of the country feels that connection with what she writes simply because she does it so well. Her towns are poor places, with the rich gentry living in homes that aren't falling apart, owning car dealerships or drug stores. The truly poor are filthy, ignorant and have families that barely fit that characterization. I've seen that kind of poverty, experienced that kind of ignorance up close and personal and it's amazing to me that its essentially the same no matter where you live.
Kimmel creates these completely lovable characters, glaring flaws and all. The book I just put down was "Something Rising (Light and Swift)" and was about a tough woman's life. She plays pool for money and gets into fights and bouts of road rage. Her history is bleak and depressing with a father not worth the effort to hate, a mother who is emotionally distant, a sister who is mentally unstable, and the main character Cassie holding everything together. She has an uncanny talent for pool, an innate understanding of physics that she channels through a cue.
Kimmel is very upfront about why her characters have so many problems. She lays it all out on the line oftentimes in paragraphs that span a few pages as Cassie's mother unloads exactly what went wrong where. That's a refreshing way to approach, as opposed to most books that wait until the end to tell you why everybody's so screwed up.
This is not a depressing book. It can be frustrating, watching people not functioning, not parenting, not living real lives, but it's not depressing. It's beautiful. Kimmel's writing style gets the credit for that. I'm hooked now, so off I go to find another Kimmel gem.