Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

I enjoyed Haven Kimmel's first memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, very much. So when I ran across this book on sale, I snapped it up. After all, that first book ends just her mother, who has basically been lying on the couch, reading novels, watching TV, talking on the phone, and eating chips for all of Zippy's young life, gets up off the couch. It was screaming for a sequel! How can we not know what or why she finally got up and decided to do something!

And do something she did. She decided to go to college. She took a test and managed to get exempted out of the first two years of school. Then she applied and got in. Her husband was not supportive. She at first got rides from fellow classmates. Eventually she got a driver's license, and saved enough money for a falling-apart car (and what she does for money to maintain the car is pretty ingenious.) She excelled in college, and went on to get her Master's degree. Which to a certain extent solves the question of how someone as erudite and well-educated as Haven is, got to where she is from having been raised nearly feral, often hungry, having a lot of fun but not being well supervised or cared for. In this book we also see that her older sister, who also gets married young, does a lot to help raise Zippy and make sure she is fed and clothed and bathes occasionally.

The book is told from the point of view of 10-year-old Zippy, not from the adult Haven, so she often doesn't seem to understand the import of certain details she relates to readers, although readers understand what's going on with the adults around her. As before, Zippy is antic, wild, wants to be unbathed and unschooled, but despite herself, she does get the schooling she needs and she is cared for, even if not always very well cared for. She is obviously well loved, and quite resilient given her family circumstances which instead of seeing them for the poverty that they are, instead she sees as a glorious excuse to be horrifically messy and free. If you can look past the neglect and her parents' serious flaws, Zippy found her childhood delightful, and in this book she has the bonus of a mother she can look up to who values education and overcomes many obstacles to get one, likely inspiring her daughter's own future opportunities. Each chapter is written more as an individual essay rather than a smooth single narrative, kind of like David Sedaris, but they are more or less chronological and this is a great memoir for lovers of the genre.

I bought this book at Borders.

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