A memoir about growing up in small-town Indiana, Haven Kimmel explores the stories and people that shaped her life. Moorehead, Indiana, in the 70s, was like any rural Indiana town; where faith, family, and basketball reigned supreme. The stories range from gentler topics; such as avoiding the elderly, evil neighbor Edyth and trading hippies a haircut for their dog, to topics that are harder for a child to understand. Kimmel does a phenomenal job voicing her thoughts in a childish prose – almost as if we are hearing the words straight from 7-year-old Zippy’s mouth.
Normally, I am not one for memoirs. I often find them choppy and difficult to read, especially if the timeline jumps around. However, I received this book as a “regift” from my mother (as she already read it) and, as I had not started another book yet, decided to give it a try. A little background on how my mother acquired A Girl Named Zippy: Mooreland, Indiana is located in Henry, County – the county my parents grew up in, met each other, and eventually married in. My mom’s cousin found this book at a second-hand store in Utah and sent it our way.
While the first couple of chapters of A Girl Named Zippy don’t stick to a chronological timeline (often jumping around years within the same chapter), the second half did a better job of staying fluid. This allowed for a smoother read as the second half also showcased more of the darker topics of her youth. This is where I would like to throw out a trigger warning about animal abuse/ neglect. When I read the book, this did not stick out to me as anything out of the ordinary. After all, the environment of rural Indiana in the 70s was not an environment that PETA would approve. Animals were either livestock, hunting dogs, or outdoor pets – that came and went as they pleased and were easily replaceable. I remember my own dad telling me how there was only enough money for a big-animal veterinarian and his dogs (which he can’t remember what happened to them) would just get whatever leftover worm medication the horse and pigs got. However, when I entered my selection into Goodreads, the primary complaint was regarding the animal abuse/neglect; a shock to many who came from richer suburban or big city areas. Although Kimmel does not abuse any animals (she even tries to save a runt pig) many animals do die in this memoir.
Overall, A Girl Named Zippy gets 3 out of 5 stars from me on Goodreads (I would give it an extra half a star if I could), The stories Kimmel shares about her childhood are very similar to the ones my parents used to tell. The only big difference is that my mom belonged to the United Methodist Church instead of the Friends Church. Kimmel’s memoir was the perfect light read for me. I read the first half while indoor cycling (another reason why the first half could have seemed more jumbled) and the second half on a two-hour plane ride. It made both situations not only bearable but I also thoroughly enjoyed every story Kimmel tells. I especially loved the chapter “The Kindness of Strangers.” Even if you don’t want to read the whole book, if you ever spot A Girl Named Zippy in a second-hand store, read this chapter. Trust me – you will be howling with laughter.
I wonder how long it’s going to take Rose to get out here, was my first thought, and then, I wonder how long I’ve already been waiting. I’ve already been out here a long time, and my mom says you can never relive a single moment. I stopped swinging. A single moment. Individual blades of grass became very distict in my vision, as they sometimes do in the light of thickly clouded days. I am thinking of a moment- it is gone. Here’s another- gone. Gone. Gone. One cannot consider, with any real accuracy, the currency of a single moment and its extinction. Those are not the words I thought, but I felt them. The ground spun beneath me, although I was sitting ahold of the swing set’s ladder, which was striped like a barber’s pole, I noticed for the first time. I wandered out of rose’s yard and headed home as if I were sick. It was impossible to stop thinking about time; I couldn’t get it out of my head and the effect was that every step I took was measured in jerky increments that vividly illustrated the arrival of a little unit of time and the death of that unit, until I was nauseous.
– “A Girl Named Zippy” by Haven Kimmel