Fiction Jennifer Haigh Mrs. Kimble: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780060530976

Mrs. Kimble: A Novel

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9780060530976: Mrs. Kimble: A Novel

“Beautiful, devastating and complex.” —Chicago Tribune

The award-winning debut novel from Jennifer Haigh, author of BakerTowers, The Condition, and Faith, tells the story of Birdie, Joan,and Dinah, three women who marry the same charismatic, predatory, and enigmaticopportunist: Ken Kimble. Resonating with emotional intensity and narrativeinnovation reminiscent of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, and Zora Neale Hurston’s TheirEyes Were Watching God, Haigh’s Mrs. Kimble is a timeless story ofgrief, passion, heartache, deception, and the complex riddle of love.

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Review:

Sometimes a book can be utterly full of holes and you still can't put it down. In Mrs. Kimble, first-time novelist Jennifer Haigh follows the marital career of Ken Kimble, opportunist, serial husband, and all around schmuck. The first section, set in Virginia in the 1960s, revolves around alcoholic first wife Birdie. As we enter the story, Kimble has already left her alone with two small children she is ill equipped to raise on her own. Kimble's absence in this section sets the tone for the book, which is not so much about Kimble himself as it is about the women he dupes over the years. Next up is Joan, a Newsweek reporter recovering from a mastectomy at her late father's home in Florida. A wealthy, confident woman left unsteady by breast cancer, she falls for Kimble, who now turns up in a hippie-ish incarnation. In the final section, Kimble weds Dinah, who had been his children's babysitter back in Virginia. Their marriage unravels as, at the end of the book, Kimble's secrets are revealed one by one. Unfortunately, the central secret of the book is never laid bare: how did the man get to be such a jerk? Other problems are never dealt with, either: we never believe a whip-smart woman like Joan could be so transparently snow-jobbed. We never understand why Dinah stays with an aging crook. Nevertheless, Mrs. Kimble is still engrossing. Haigh is so gifted at creating vivid scenes and strong characters, we find ourselves surrendering our disbelief despite our better judgment. This isn't the terrific book it might have been, but it's still a superior read. --Claire Dederer

From the Back Cover:

In her masterful first novel Mrs. Kimble, Jennifer Haigh delivers the compelling story of three women who marry the same man -- an enigmatic opportunist named Ken Kimble.

Birdie. 1961.

He was the choir director at a Southern Bible college. At practice she followed his hands with her eyes. Watching him, she thought of the Pietà: Mary weeping over her son's crucified body, his naked arms smooth as milk, his chest delicately ribbed like the underside of a flower. She imagined his shoulders bare beneath his shirt, his body long and white. One evening he approached her after practice.

Joan. 1969.

She met him at a pool party in Florida. His lank dark hair hung to his shoulders; he wore faded jeans and a colorful cotton blouse. His eyes were a startling blue. No man had touched her in a year. He was engaged to someone else.

Dinah. 1979

They met by accident in Washington, D.C. Their paths had intersected once before, when she was a teenager. "You're a beautiful girl," he'd told her, oblivious to the hideous scar on her face. He was old enough to be her father.

Kimble is revealed through the eyes of the women he seduces: his first wife, Birdie Bell, who struggles to hold herself together in the months following his desertion; his second wife, Joan Cohen, a lonely heiress shaken by personal tragedy, who sees in Kimble her last chance at happiness; and finally Dinah Whitacre, a beautiful but damaged woman half his age. Woven throughout is the story of Kimble's son, Charlie, whose life is forever affected by a father he barely remembers. Ken Kimble is a chameleon, a man able to become, at least for a while, all things to all women. To each of the three Mrs. Kimbles, he appears as a hero to whom powerful needs and nameless longings may be attached. Only later do they glimpse the truth about this elusive, unknowable man.

A captivating exploration of human love, marriage, and the illusions upon which it is founded, Mrs. Kimble presents a fascinating psychological portrait of a mesmerizing opportunist and the women who believe in him. Beautifully wrought, stunningly original, Jennifer Haigh's sparkling debut marks the arrival of a remarkable new talent.

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