Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: A Girl Named Zippy

A Girl Named Zippy was the book club selection for the month of September. Having listened to Haven Kimmel's other memoir, She Got Up Off the Couch recently, I knew it would be fun to listen to the author read this book aloud. Indeed, I think much of the humor is more effectively conveyed when read by the author aloud. I would recommend reading (or listening to) the books in order because the first book presents a more affectionate, gentle rendition of her childhood, while the second one takes on more difficult transitions in life. Both are sure to provide much amusement.

One thing I noted this time around (or hadn't remembered from reading the book over a decade ago) was that the author was born the same year I was - 1965. I relished the experience of tripping back in time to the icons of my youth (the small tubes of sample lipsticks from Avon, the fuzzy stuffed monkey wearing a shirt and clutching a plastic banana, and E-Z-Bake Ovens). In group discussion, we marveled at the author's excellent ability to write from a child's perspective. She nailed the dialogue between kids (especially in one scene where she is confronted by a girl attempting to steal her best friend) and portrayed clearly what it was like to see the small town world of Mooreland, Indiana, from a child's eyes.

In our discussion, we touched on the difficulties of writing outstanding memoir. Haven Kimmel manages to present what is, in many ways, a dysfunctional family, with grace and gentle humor. She readily admits that her mother wore an indentation in the couch by sitting in one spot reading and knitting and her father won and lost many things in his gambling habit. Her siblings were often cruel (holding her upside down, telling her she was adopted), but she manages to present them in very human ways, with compassion. Her story is one of resilience and pluck.

As I said in my review of her second memoir, the author excels in her ability to paint small town America and inject subtle humor to poignant stories. One of the members of our group delved into some research and discovered hints that the author regrets the impact her memoirs have had on the small town she grew up in. Memoir is such tricky business. It is one person's flawed perspective on events and people, but it is still a valid tale because it expresses the wisdom an individual gleaned from such events and people. Life in Mooreland certainly influenced the author. This particular author succeeded in telling the story of her life in ways that made the ordinary extraordinary and the mundane significant. Plus, she's always good for a hearty chuckle.

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