In her masterful first novel Mrs. Kimble, Jennifer Haigh delivers the riveting story of three women who marry the same man.
Ken Kimble is revealed through the eyes of the women he seduces: his first wife, Birdie, who struggles to hold herself together following his desertion; his second wife, Joan, a lonely heiress shaken by personal tragedy, who sees in Kimble her last chance at happiness; and finally Dinah, a beautiful but damaged woman half his age. Woven throughout is the story of Kimble's son, Charlie, whose life is forever affected by the father he barely remembers. Kimble is a chameleon, a man able to become, at least for a while, all things to all women -- a hero to whom powerful needs and nameless longings may be attached. Only later do they glimpse the truth about this enigmatic, unknowable man.
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Sometimes a book can be utterly full of holes and you still can't put it down. In Mrs. Kimble, first-time novelist Jennifer Haigh follows the marital career of Ken Kimble, opportunist, serial husband, and all around schmuck. The first section, set in Virginia in the 1960s, revolves around alcoholic first wife Birdie. As we enter the story, Kimble has already left her alone with two small children she is ill equipped to raise on her own. Kimble's absence in this section sets the tone for the book, which is not so much about Kimble himself as it is about the women he dupes over the years. Next up is Joan, a Newsweek reporter recovering from a mastectomy at her late father's home in Florida. A wealthy, confident woman left unsteady by breast cancer, she falls for Kimble, who now turns up in a hippie-ish incarnation. In the final section, Kimble weds Dinah, who had been his children's babysitter back in Virginia. Their marriage unravels as, at the end of the book, Kimble's secrets are revealed one by one. Unfortunately, the central secret of the book is never laid bare: how did the man get to be such a jerk? Other problems are never dealt with, either: we never believe a whip-smart woman like Joan could be so transparently snow-jobbed. We never understand why Dinah stays with an aging crook. Nevertheless, Mrs. Kimble is still engrossing. Haigh is so gifted at creating vivid scenes and strong characters, we find ourselves surrendering our disbelief despite our better judgment. This isn't the terrific book it might have been, but it's still a superior read. --Claire DedererFrom the Back Cover:
A chameleon, an enigma, all things to all women -- a lifeline to which powerful needs and nameless longings may be attached -- Ken Kimble is revealed through the eyes of the women he seduces: Birdie, his first wife, struggling to hold herself together after his desertion; second wife, Joan, a lonely, tragic heiress who sees her unknowable husband as her last chance for happiness; and Dinah, a beautiful but damaged woman half his age.
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