The Solace of Leaving Early

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9780007152537: The Solace of Leaving Early

A heart rending story of the lives of a few inhabitants of a small American town and the massive effect of one very violent death.

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 parents’ 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 – 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, it’s a present.

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Review:

‘Kimmel writes with an Anne Tyler-like wryness.’ Observer

‘Arresting. She is a writer who understands that thinking and feeling are not mutually exclusive, and that people can do both at once.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘An amazing, humorous overview of small-town life. Kimmel credits the reader with intelligence, making the novel a finely measured read with mesmerizing, original characters. Ultimately, this is a love story, but the most subtle, original one I have read for years.’ Irish Examiner

‘Kimmel’s wonderful debut novel is vivid and hopeful. 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

From the Back Cover:

'It was hot in Langston's childhood bedroom; she had walked away from her life and her vocation; her parents would surely try to force her to get a job, and the church bells were ringing for Alice Baker-Maloney, another unreconciled bit of Langston's history, a girl she'd grown up with who was now undeniably dead…Neither Langston nor Alice had travelled far, but here they both were, home again.'

Langston Braverman finds herself back home ten years after leaving Haddington to pursue a career as an academic. Romantic Literature qualifications and philosophical digressions don't hold much weight in Haddington, though, and Langstons mother forces her into the role of carer for two suddenly orphaned little girls, daughters of her childhood friend, Alice.

Amos Townsend, the local preacher, has his doubts about Langston's suitability. But is he, suffering a crippling crisis of faith, any better placed to act as the girl's spiritual counsellor?

The four embark on a moving and funny emotional journey that might just be the biggest leap of faith any of them has ever taken.

'Wonderful – vivid and hopeful. Dances back and forth 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'

'Kimmel gives us a stunning birds-eye view of rural American life, as damning as it is affectionate.'
'Los Angeles Times'

'A believable, engaging and supremely witty novel of ideas, one that explores the mores of community as thoroughly as John Updike and delineates character as finely as Jonathan Franzen.'
'Atlanta Journal'

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