In Kimmel’s follow-up to her well-received memoir about growing up in a tiny Indiana town (A Girl Named Zippy, 2001), the “She” of the title is Kimmel’s mother, whose mid-life decision to attend college in the early 1970s disrupted her family’s equilibrium.
Kimmel picks up where she left off: The Jarvis family is still in Mooreland, a town of 300 where everyone knows not only your name but most of your business. Zippy’s best friends are still Rose and Julie. Her much older sister Melinda is still bedeviling her. Her seriously overweight, clearly depressed mother is still sitting on the couch reading book after book while Zippy’s slightly mysterious father still comes and goes as he pleases. And Zippy is still a carefree tomboy frequently getting into humorous scrapes and secure in the bosom of friends and family. But change is in the air. Melinda gets married and is soon raising her own babies, the two new loves in Zippy’s life. Zippy’s father, after retiring early from his factory job on disability, volunteers as a sheriff’s deputy. School consolidation introduces new friends into Zippy’s life. Most important, Zippy’s mother Delonda, who left behind her ambitions and middle-class background when she married Bob Jarvis at 17, decides to attend Ball State University. Despite having no money, no driver’s license and a disapproving husband, she makes the daily commute—she pays expenses on her VW beetle by becoming a driving advertisement for Herbal Essences shampoo—and excels in her classes, going on to earn her masters and teach English at the local high school. As Delonda’s horizons broaden, her marriage falls apart. Kimmel carefully limits the darkness to the edges until the last chapters, but sadness at losing her father to divorce permeates her stories, leavening their tendency toward cuteness.
Fans will find this go-round less zippy (forgive the pun), but more honest.