walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_A Girl Named Zippy_, Haven Kimmel

This was a book club pick; I got it used on Amazon in paperback and then donated my copy. If I want to reread it, I'll get it on the kindle. I did it this way because it was cheaper. I would have picked up a library copy, however I missed going to group last month (I returned the previous month's pick via mail). The book group I attend is in Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name), the town I used to live in and now live about 30 miles away from.

This book was an unusual pick for our group, in that we had a couple people arrive who each have only attended one other meeting (we have a small set of regulars) AND every single person got through the entire book -- frequently someone, or more than one person will fail to complete the book. Not finishing turns out to be one of the best discussion points, but again, despite everyone finishing the book and rating it 3 stars or better on a 5 star scale, we had a very nice discussion. I think it's actually a really good book, but deceptively so.

This light-toned memoir depicts what, objectively speaking, was a childhood marked by neglect, mental illness (alcoholic father, severely depressed mother), and poverty. At least two of the children (the titular youngest, Zippy, and the oldest, Daniel) also had significant developmental delays that did not receive direct support, partly due to the time, partly due to the place, and partly due to the family situation. The relationship between the parents is, to be blunt, extremely unhealthy: dad spends a lot of time Not Being Around and quite a lot of the time he is around chain smoking and/or drinking heavily. Mom spends her time on the couch eating pork rinds and (re)reading paperback science fiction novels. Outside of school, the only scheduled activity is the Friends church which mom insists they attend and which dad declines (other than kids' commitments and marriages and similar). There's some underemployment and, in addition to neglect of the kiddies, there's neglect of the house and so forth.

Remember, tho, I said it was light in tone, so it's from a kid perspective and the town is tiny, so the neighbors keep the kids mostly safe. There's a big age gap between the author and her two older siblings (this has all the indications of a let's-save-the-marriage-with-another-baby situation), with some humor inherent in the relationship between the teenaged boy and girl (fighting over the lone bathroom, etc.) and their treatment of their much younger sister. Zippy wanders the small town at will, vastly curious, climbing trees, going to the drugstore to get a lemon phosphate, etc.

Oddly, while I thought it was brutally obvious that the parents would divorce after the mother started college after the end of the book (events apparently documented in a sequel, _She Got Up Off the Couch_), no one else in the group picked up on what I did, altho, in an unusual twist, they agreed with my interpretation once I reread out loud the passage in which mom borrows Zippy's grown-up-bike and rides off down the road, leaving dad and Zippy to contemplate this extremely unusual act on her part.

While the Friends' church in Mooreland isn't quite like what I have been led to understand Friends' meetings to generally be like, the inner spirituality of Quakers does come through clearly in the character of Delonda and in the way she shapes Zippy. It's an enjoyable read; I'll try the sequel, as well.
Tags: book review, non-fiction
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