Our local library is not the greatest. They have a large selection of books, but they generally are not books I would go out of my way to read. They have well over an entire shelf of Danielle Steele's literary abortions, but I had to order Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates through the inter-library loan program. (Thank you, Higher Power, for the invention of the inter-library loan.) Their true crime section is as bleak and barren as the Nebraska plains in March. As a result, I often wander the aisles, randomly eyeing the volumes, looking for something interesting that is not The Bridges Of Madison County. (Side note: They do have a wonderful selection of cooksbooks.)
Last week, I stumbled across two books by Jennifer Haigh, Mrs. Kimble and Baker Towers. Ms. Haigh is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop and the recipient of the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction for Mrs. Kimble and the winner of the 2006 PEN/L.L. Winship Award for Bakers Towers.
I read Mrs. Kimble in its entirety yesterday and started Bakers Towers (at about 2 a.m., I might add). The lady can tell a wonderful story.
Mrs. Kimble is the story of Ken Kimble, a sleazy opportunistic man who marries three women. The story is told from the third person point of view of the wives and Kimble's son Charlie, who was abandoned by Kimble at the age of six.
Baker Towers is set in a Pennsylvania coal town in the World War II era (rather fitting since today is Pearl Harbor Day). It captures the town and the people of that generation and place perfectly, that spirit of innocence and hope without being mushy or sentimental.
Neither book is "chick lit", which for the most part, I abhor. They are, however, compelling and lyrical and inviting. I was right there, looking over the character's shoulders.
I would highly recommend a week-end curled up with Jennifer Haigh's wonderful imagination and skillful pen.