The Solace of Leaving Early (2002)

by Haven Kimmel

Haven Kimmel’s memoir about growing up in a small Midwest town, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana (2001), was a bestseller. She followed it the next year with her first novel, The Solace of Leaving Early, which mines a small-town setting with less success.

Langsdon Braverman walks away from her PhD oral exam and moves back into her parents’ home in Haddington, Indiana. She is obviously troubled and insufferably prickly and self-righteous, but the book is fairly far along before readers find out why. Meanwhile, Amos White, her mother’s pastor, has his own reason for soul-searching and self-doubt; a couple he was counseling killed each other in front of their two young daughters.

Amos and Langsdon are both involved in helping the grandmother care for the girls, but neither approves of the other. It probably isn't surprising to hear that the two will get together, but the conclusion is abrupt and unrealistic.

While the plot resembles a made-for-TV movie, the dialogue sometimes reads like a graduate seminar. Small-town characters are unaccountably well-read and eager to bandy their knowledge of theology and literature. One suspects that Kimmel, who has degrees in English and also attended seminary, couldn’t resist using her platform to make some points about religion.


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