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Haven Kimmel   The Solace of Leaving Early  
Haven Kimmel  
Read an Interview with Haven Kimmel

Read an Excerpt from The Solace of Leaving Early

A Girl Named Zippy

  When we last caught up with Haven Kimmel nearly a year ago, she was poised on the brink of a literary charge with her newly published memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and forthcoming novel, The Solace of Leaving Early; as she laughed, "my impression is that having two books released within a year of one another qualifies, within the classical definition, as an 'invasion.'"

Her first book, the hilarious A Girl Named Zippy, did pull off something of a coup, charming readers and critics alike. Perhaps more significantly, it defiantly pulled rank on the dime-a-dozen Staggering Geniuses and Prozac Nationals who reigned tragic over the genre. With loving humor and joyful nostalgia, Kimmel easily won over those who thought memoir automatically meant "oh my God, I had a horrible, miserable life, pity me pity me oh pity me and now buy my book for $23.95 plus sales tax and don't forget to add shipping and handling if you ordered online." At least two unnamed fans, perhaps under the influence of Zippiness, went on to Amazon.com and checked off "no" on all the "did you find this review helpful" sections of the book's few bad reviews. (Well, they weren't.)

With her novel The Solace of Leaving Early, Kimmel delivers a surprise; not only has she fulfilled and exceeded the promise of Zippy, she has produced a moving work tilting 180 degrees away from it. Outwardly a tale of two orphaned sisters who claim to speak to the Virgin Mary, Solace is also the poignant love story of Amos Townsend, a preacher who doubts his faith after a tragedy, and Langston Braverman, an emotionally fragile Ph.D. candidate who walks out of her orals. Concerned about the welfare of the children, who have renamed themselves Illuminata and Epiphany, Amos and Langston disagree while failing to recognize their inherent similarities in position and character. As a number of past histories come to light with painstaking gradualness, the couple are slowly and inexorably drawn together.

Harkening back to literary traditions of another era, Solace plays its large issues of faith, love, family, marriage, human nature, and literature against the intimate background of a small Indiana town, inviting a deep engagement with the story. More serious in tone, the novel nevertheless roils with the subtlest, most elegant humor and a host of quirky, fully realized characters. I loved Solace instantly and so wholeheartedly that I was inconsolable when it ended and couldn't read anything else afterward; nothing else seemed a worthy follow-up. Bring on the Haven invasion.

In this issue of Bold Type, author Haven Kimmel discusses Ignatius J. Reilly as a girl, life as a Jüngian poster child, the Perfect Reader, and a bag of little horses, and provides an excerpt from her beautiful first novel, The Solace of Leaving Early. Also, revisit our previous feature on Haven's irresistible memoir, A Girl Named Zippy.

-- Kelley Kawano
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  Photo credit: Maia Dery

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