Fresh and funny memoirs of a childhood in America’s heartland, written by one who was born there in 1965 and can still remember the way a child experienced it.
Kimmel, a former student of creative writing at Ball and North Carolina State Universities, has written about what she knows best—Zippy Jarvis and the little world she grew up in. The Jarvis family lived in Mooreland, Indiana, a town of 300 people, three churches, and one four-way intersection with stop signs. Just what they were doing there isn’t clear, but the author’s portraits of her hot-tempered, gambling father and her sedentary, depressive mother are vivid. While young Zippy did not see her parents’ quirks as failings, the adult author makes their shortcomings abundantly clear. Through her eyes, the reader also meets the scary old woman who lives across the street and is believed to eat puppy stew; her friend Rose, remarkable for being not only left-handed but Catholic; the neighboring Hicks family with their eight children (“all excellent”), who leave their aged dog in Zippy’s care; and her grandmother Mildred, whose house was once picked up by a tornado and moved twenty feet, landing on the family graveyard. All the ordinary stuff of childhood—building a bicycle with her father, throwing up in the local diner, fighting with schoolmates, going to Easter sunrise services with her mother—is recalled and told in the appealing voice of a scrappy, naïve kid. Each chapter begins with an appropriate photograph, usually a candid snapshot, but sometimes a school picture or a posed-for portrait, which serve to remind us that this is not fiction. However, Kimmel’s narrative skills suggest a novel may be next.
Not the weightiest of tomes, but quite delightful and very amusing.