It's a cliche to say that a good memoir reads like a well-crafted work of fiction, but Kimmel's smooth, impeccably humorous prose evokes her childhood as vividly as any novel. Born in 1965, she grew up in Mooreland, Ind., a place that by some "mysterious and powerful mathematical principle" perpetually retains a population of 300, a place where there's no point learning the street names because it's just as easy to say, "We live at the four-way stop sign." Hers is less a formal autobiography than a collection of vignettes comprising the things a small child would remember: sick birds, a new bike, reading comics at the drugstore, the mean old lady down the street. The truths of childhood are rendered in lush yet simple prose; here's Zippy describing a friend who hates wearing girls' clothes: "Julie in a dress was like the rest of us in quicksand." Over and over, we encounter pearls of third-grade wisdom revealed in a child's assured voice: "There are a finite number of times one can safely climb the same tree in a single day"; or, regarding Jesus, "Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn't be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn't afraid of blind people."
Forecast: Dreamy and comforting, spiced with flashes of wit, this book seems a natural for readers of the Oprah school of women's fiction (e.g., Elizabeth Berg, Janet Fitch). The startling baby photograph on the cover should catch browsers' eyes.
Bernie N. (Bernie) reviewed A Girl Named Zippy : Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana on
From Library Journal
In this first book, Kimmel has written a love letter to her hometown of Mooreland, IN, a town with an unchanging population of 300 in America's heartland. Nicknamed "Zippy" for her energetic interpretation of a circus monkey, she could not be bothered to speak until she was three years old, and her first words involved bargaining with her father about whether or not a baby bottle was still appropriate. Born in 1965, Zippy lived in a world filled with a loving family, peculiar neighbors, and multitudes of animals, including a chicken she loved and treated like a baby. Her story is filled with good humor, fine storytelling, and acute observations of small town life.
Starting out as a roll-on-the-ground funny book, Kimmel seems to lose steam about 2/3 of the way through. Too bad; the beginning is well worth the read, but I gave up caring about any of the people long before the end.