Langston Braverman has just walked out on her PhD oral exams and returned home to Haddington, Indiana in a fragile emotional state. She retreats to her parents' attic, unsure what to do with the summer or the rest of her life, but with vague plans to write the great American novel. But it's hot, and she is distracted beyond capacity to think by the banality of this small-town home she has returned to, and plunged deep in the trauma of a self-imposed existential dilemma from which not even news of the death of her childhood best friend, Alice, can rouse her.
A few houses down Plum Street, Amos Townsend, the local preacher, is suffering from a crippling crisis of faith, wondering how he can continue in the role of spiritual leader of this community. Traumatised by Alice's violent death, guilt-ridden over his inability to prevent it, he feels a responsibility for the welfare of Alice's two suddenly orphaned young girls, altered beyond recognition from the shock of having witnessed the bloody end to their parentsÃ�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â� marriage. Langston's mother, meanwhile, has forced her into the role of carer, and the developing relationship between the damaged children, and these two slightly hopeless adults helps all four embark on a process of recovery and redemption that is heartbreakingly poignant and utterly convincing.
The Solace of Leaving Early is a remarkable novel Ã�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â� generous, warm-hearted, smart and ambitious. It is a novel of people and ideas, of family ties, and of how those ties endure for better or worse, of grief and love, of leaving home and returning, of the overwhelming secrets that rest quietly within us. It is so sweet and smart, itÃ�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â�s a present.
First published 2002.
'Kimmel's wonderful debut novel is vivid and hopeful, packed with astute allusions to philosophy, theology, sacred art and literature. She uses her sharply drawn observations to add a generous amount of humour to the novel, and does a terrific job of dancing back and forth across the line between tragedy and comedy. Fragile, funny Langston Braverman is a stand-in for all those girls who run headlong away from their roots, only to find that they've left something important behind.' San Francisco Chronicle 'To be read for its characters, its surprising phrasing and the way it deals with all sorts of ideas, including the possibility of improbable love.' USA Today Reviews for A Girl Named Zippy 'Parenting experts would gag, but Zippy's parents must have done something right to produce a girl who could write such a simple, lovely book.' USA Today 'It's a cliche to say that a good memoir reads like a well-crafted work of fiction, but Kimmel's smooth, impeccably humorous prose evokes her childhood as vividly as any novel.' Publishers Weekly
haven kimmel is the author of the memoir A Girl Named Zippy. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University. She also attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion.