She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana

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9780743285001: She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana

The # 1 New York Times bestseller A Girl Named Zippy was a rare and welcome treat: a memoir of a happy childhood. Spunky, strong-willed, and too smart for her own good, Zippy Jarvis brought readers delight and joy. In She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven Kimmel invites us to rejoin the quirky and hilarious Jarvis family saga, shining the spotlight now on her remarkable mother, Delonda.

Zippy is growing up and struggling with both her hair and her distaste for shoes. But this memoir strikes a deeper and more emotional chord, as now Kimmel shines the spotlight on her remarkable mother, Delonda. Courageous and steadfast, Delonda finally realized that she could change her life, and she got up off the funky couch in the den, bought a beat-up flower power VW bug (and then learned to drive it), and went back to school, which gave her the chance to gain both financial independence and, at long last, self-respect.

A true pleasure for old fans and new ones alike, She Got Up Off the Couch is a gorgeous encapsulation of an innocent time when a child didn't understand that her mother was depressed or felt stifled, but just noted on her way out the door that Delonda was a fixture in the living room. Kimmel captures the seminal moments of her mother's burgeoning empowerment with the full strength of her distinctive, deft storytelling, and with the overflowing sense of humor that made A Girl Named Zippy a favorite of readers everywhere.

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Review:

Haven Kimmel's memoir She Got Up Off the Couch might have been called The Further Adventures of Zippy, since it picks up where her bestselling A Girl Named Zippy left off, and is reeled out in much the same vein. The person who got up off the couch is Zippy's mother, Delonda, who for years sat on the titular sofa, ate, read, and watched TV until she weighed 268 pounds and life was nearly unbearable. You would never know the bad parts from Haven Kimmel, who always concentrates on the bright side, even though she lived in a house without heat, food, indoor plumbing, a dependable water supply or even a modicum of cleanliness. Kimmel loves her parents inordinately, even at their most unlovable.

Delonda takes a College Entrance exam, passes it and enrolls at Ball State, where she completes a degree in two years, goes on for a Master's and gets a job as a high school teacher. That sounds fairly straightforward but it wasn't easy. Bob Jarvis, Delonda's husband and Zippy's father, gave her no help at all; in fact, he ridiculed her and ignored her progress. Eventually, he found someone else while Delonda was busy reclaiming her life. We could read this as a tale of the times, where a woman takes charge of herself, loses 120 pounds and, against all odds, gains an education and a livelihood. It is all of that, and more.

Life in Mooreland, Indiana, in the 1970s is not very exciting, but Zippy finds wonder everywhere and often laughed until she "tipped right over." There is an unquenchable spirit in the girl, and then in the woman, that keeps popping up despite a very sketchy upbringing. The neighbors fed and bathed her, she wore the same pair of pants to school every day for an entire school year--without benefit of laundry. Her brother and sister lit out at the first chance they had--though Melinda ends up only a few blocks away and becomes another safe port for Zippy. She is a victim of benign neglect, not malice or meanness.

Her tales of church camp, days with her friends, driving with her Dad, going to a play with her Mother, her love for her niece and nephew and her discovery that her Dad is having an affair are all told in typical Zippy-style: they are humorous, poignant, exuberant, and often breathless. Stay tuned: this book ends when Zippy is only thirteen. Hopefully there's more to come. --Valerie Ryan

About the Author:

Haven Kimmel is the author of The Used World, She Got Up Off the Couch, Something Rising (Light and Swift), The Solace of Leaving Early, and A Girl Named Zippy. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University and attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, N.C.

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