four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
By: 
Haven Kimmel
user_rating: 
0

A-The Used WorldThe Used World Emporium, an antique and junk shop in Jonah, Indiana, contains "the castoffs of countless lives"-as well as three very much flesh-and-blood characters: the eccentric 65-year-old proprietor, Hazel; the introverted 40-something, 6'5" Claudia, coping with her self-centered sister and her mother's death; and the waiflike Rebekah, who escaped a fundamentalist Pentecostal childhood only to become pregnant. As Hazel watches circumstances change through her own mysterious point of view, two babies enter the three women's lives, and the women come together in friendship, family, and understanding of each others' own "used worlds."
Free Press. 320 pages. $25. ISBN: 0743247787

Charlotte Observer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Kimmel's novels are more than anything else novels about love: the mysterious love of God and the extraordinary love of human beings for another, a love that is sometimes strong enough to overcome human greed and stupidity and narrowness. She surpasses herself in this novel and has given us a reading experience that can transform the soul." Anthony S. Abbott

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Toward the end, the novel takes off in a suspenseful, page-turning torrent in which past and present are surprisingly but neatly tied together through the unraveling of old stories and the unfolding of new events. ... More effective and touching is the gradual illumination of the nuances of friendship and the dynamics of family, no matter what form it takes." Karen Campbell

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Always keenly interested in theology-she attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion-Kimmel imbues her characters with an everyday spirituality that, at the same time, is remarkably informed. What Kimmel gives us, in her eruditely homespun way, is hope: hope that we can fix ourselves, hope that we can get up in the morning, hope that things won't get any worse." Christine Selk

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Book clubs: go for it. The Used World is a book that's entertaining to read but it's also smart. It takes on the taboo subjects of abortion and religion in unexpected ways, and along the way refers you to objects you might have forgotten: those little plastic accordion cups, for example." Gale Warden

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Kimmel pulls off an unexpectedly affecting novelistic coup, in which sunny exuberance exists side by side with solemnity, faith sits next to doubt, the past cohabits with the present, and the ineffable cozies up to the real. That so messy a book forms such a satisfying whole is a bit of a miracle." Donna Rifkind

Critical Summary

The Used World is the newest novel in a very loose trilogy comprised of The Solace of Leaving Early (2002) and Something Rising (Light and Swift) ( 3.5 of 5 Stars May/June 2004), both portraits of small-town life in Indiana. Here, Kimmel explores faith in religion, friendship, and family through three female outcasts whom circumstance brings together. Kimmel's vivid, poetic writing, mixed with compassion and wry humor, reveals their multilayered lives slowly and satisfyingly. Critics noted some digressions, complex interconnections, melodrama, and confusing shifting viewpoints but praised the novel's overall message of hope. As the character Rebekah concludes, "What feels like the end of the world never is. It never is."

Also by the Author

A Girl Named Zippy Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana (2001): Born in 1965, Haven Kimmel explores her childhood in Mooreland, Indiana (pop. 300), one filled with barnyard animals, a new bike, drugstore comic books, a betting father, and church on Sundays.