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Friday, September 2, 2011

A Girl Named Zippy book review

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
From the cover: "When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would run around like a circus monkey, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still trapped in the amber of the innocent post-war period—people help their neighbors, go to church, keep barnyard animals in their backyards.

To three-year-old Zippy, it makes perfect sense to strike a bargain with her father to keep her baby bottle—never mind that when she does, it's the first time she's ever spoken. The words never stop once Zippy finds her voice, and it is a voice that Kimmel captures perfectly page after page. In her nonplussed family, Zippy has the ideal supporting cast: her beautiful yet dour brother, Danny, a seeker of the true faith; her sweetly sensible sister, Lindy, who wins the local beauty pageant; her mother, Delonda, who dispenses wisdom from the corner of the couch; and her father, Bob Jarvis, who never met a bet he didn't take. The world seen through Zippy's eyes is vivid and occasionally mind-boggling, especially when Zippy grapples with the meaning of time and has to go lie in a "worm hole" to recover.
Whether describing a serious case of chicken love, another episode with the evil old woman across the street, or the night Zippy's dad borrows thirty-six coon dogs and a raccoon to prove to the complaining neighbors just how quiet his two dogs are, Kimmel treats readers to a heroine as appealing, naive, and knowing as Scout Finch as she navigates the quirky adult world surrounding Zippy."

This was such a charming book to me.  I've always longed for small town life, simpler times.  Reading her stories also reminded me of my own childhood.  Not that mine resembled Haven Kimmel's childhood, but rather something more universal about this book resonated with me.  I think A Girl Named Zippy would make anyone feel nostalgic for times long past, whether they grew up in a small town in Indiana or not.
It also offered a reminder to me as a parent the surprising perceptiveness of a child.  And I'm not going to lie, the concluding story of the book left me a little teary-eyed.  
I will say that it was a little hard to get through at times.  It is sweet and nostalgic, not fast-paced and thrilling.  But worth the time, I think.  I'm definitely interested in reading She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, which is in essence the sequel to A Girl Named Zippy.
Overall, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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