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Mrs. Kimble (P.S.) Paperback – December 27, 2005

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition (first pb) edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615541985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060858780
  • ASIN: 0060858788
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #787,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Sometimes a book can be utterly full of holes and you still can't put it down. In Mrs. Kimble, first-time novelist Jennifer Haigh follows the marital career of Ken Kimble, opportunist, serial husband, and all around schmuck. The first section, set in Virginia in the 1960s, revolves around alcoholic first wife Birdie. As we enter the story, Kimble has already left her alone with two small children she is ill equipped to raise on her own. Kimble's absence in this section sets the tone for the book, which is not so much about Kimble himself as it is about the women he dupes over the years. Next up is Joan, a Newsweek reporter recovering from a mastectomy at her late father's home in Florida. A wealthy, confident woman left unsteady by breast cancer, she falls for Kimble, who now turns up in a hippie-ish incarnation. In the final section, Kimble weds Dinah, who had been his children's babysitter back in Virginia. Their marriage unravels as, at the end of the book, Kimble's secrets are revealed one by one. Unfortunately, the central secret of the book is never laid bare: how did the man get to be such a jerk? Other problems are never dealt with, either: we never believe a whip-smart woman like Joan could be so transparently snow-jobbed. We never understand why Dinah stays with an aging crook. Nevertheless, Mrs. Kimble is still engrossing. Haigh is so gifted at creating vivid scenes and strong characters, we find ourselves surrendering our disbelief despite our better judgment. This isn't the terrific book it might have been, but it's still a superior read. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The three women who successively marry Ken Kimble all believe they've found the perfect partner, and all are proven wrong in Haigh's uneven debut. Birdie is a student at a Southern Bible college in the early 1960s when she meets Kimble, then a handsome young choir director; they marry less than a year later, a day before she turns 19. After seven unfaithful years of marriage, Ken walks out on Birdie and their two young children, leaving the hard-drinking Birdie impoverished. Ken next surfaces in Florida in 1969, engaged to a formerly ambitious coed who dropped out of college to travel the country with him. He summarily dumps her to court 39-year-old Joan Cohen, a strong-willed Newsweek reporter who is recovering from breast cancer surgery. He marries her (after falsely telling her that he's Jewish) and joins her rich uncle in his real estate business. A few years and one miscarriage later, the marriage has quietly soured, and a few years after that Joan has a recurrence of cancer and dies. Ken's third wife is the much-younger Dinah, who used to be his children's baby-sitter. This marriage survives Ken's rise to prominence in Washington, D.C., as the founder of a successful charity. Haigh's women are believable, if a touch cliched, but Ken is a cipher. Haigh leaves us guessing about his motivations, and his irresistible appeal to these women-especially the tough-minded Joan-also remains murky. The novel has sharply incisive passages, but Haigh's thin characterizations don't quite live up to the promise of the clever, intricate premise.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Jennifer Haigh is the author of four novels: FAITH, THE CONDITION, BAKER TOWERS and MRS. KIMBLE. Her books have won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author, and have been published in sixteen languages. Haigh's short stories have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Saturday Evening Post and many other places, including THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2012. A collection, entitled NEWS FROM HEAVEN, will be published by HarperCollins on January 29, 2013.

Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Jennifer now lives in the Boston area.

Customer Reviews

I read this book in two days and could not put it down.
voracious reader
The more important narrative and character development is that of the three Mrs. Kimbles - Birdie, Joan and Dinah.
Upstate Jill
It was beautifully written with wonderful character development.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Antoinette Klein on May 19, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ken Kimble is a chilling and complex creation masterfully drawn by first-time author Jennifer Haigh. He is what some would call a "serial husband," a man who has no trouble attracting women and marrying them before they get to know him very well. This deceptive and deeply unlikeable man is revealed in bits and pieces by the three women he marries.

The first Mrs. Kimble is Birdie, a woman of the 50's who falls apart when he leaves her for a young girl. She becomes a wino and neglects her two children, Charlie and Jody. The second Mrs. Kimble is Joan, a bright and savvy career woman who is devastated when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mansion, her obvious wealth, and her family connections are enticing to the highly duplicitous Ken Kimble. The third Mrs. Kimble is the physically damaged Dinah, a woman half his age who bears him a son, Brendan, whom he neglects and serves merely as a trophy wife for him to trot out when needed.

Throughout the three marriages, we are privvy to the life of firstborn son Charlie and the effects the father he barely remembers have on him. This empathetic character grows into manhood carrying the baggage of his youth, yet becomes a port in the storm to someone who needs shelter as much as he does.

The three Mrs. Kimbles give the reader a look into traditional and non-traditional family values as well as answering a lot of questions about why women marry and why they make the choices they do. The novel is totally engrossing and packs a powerful message on the vulnerability of women.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock on October 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Mrs. Kimble" is one of the more engrossing books I've read in a while. Jennifer Haigh distinctly creates the three different worlds that Ken Kimble enters, and ties them together in an ending that is satisfying without being overly sentimental. I would compare Haigh to Sue Miller, another writer who skillfully digs beneath everyday relationships.

There are hints that Ken Kimble is someone obsessed with the surface of things, never able to fully engage in the messiness of life. Ironically, his legacy is one of messiness: his wives, children, and business affairs are a tangled web of his deceit. There is bitter frustration for the reader in seeing how easily he can pull some of these things off. Sadly, there are a lot of Ken Kimbles out there. Readers may be compelled to draw on their own experiences with such sociopaths.

Highly recommended... I picked this for my book club and think it will garner good discussion.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A. Vernick on April 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It turns out you can judge a book by its cover. I was drawn to this book because of its simple, intriguing cover design and I was not disappointed once.
This is an incredible first novel. The writing is assured and occasionally beautiful. Charlie Kimble, the elusive Ken Kimble's son, is rendered stunningly, from childhood through adulthood. There are narrative gaps--the story jumps ahead by years, sometimes decades, but it is all carried off seamlessly. The three Mrs. Kimbles are fully and convincingly developed. The fact that Ken Kimble is not does not bother me in the least, as we see him through the eyes of the wives and child who never fully know him.
I was most impressed by the deeply satisfying ending. I'm looking forward to Ms. Haigh's next effort (no matter what the cover looks like).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Marilynn Griffith on March 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Reading this book, I thought of so many things in my own life, the divorce of my parents and the divorce after that, teasing I'd both given out and received as a child, my own changes as a married woman. Mrs. Kimble tells the tale of a man who is unwilling to navigate the stages of life as they come:youth, marriage, family, work, love, and eventually growing old. Even in his thirties, he is haunted by the thought of growing old, though he likes to be looked up to. When an eighteen-year-old girl at his Bible college becomes pregnant from her "sessions" with him, he marries her and makes his first move to a secular life where he can sing his secret pop tunes and buy colored underwear. When his young thing turns old before her time two kids and eight years later, he lands another young thing in his trap and runs off with her to Florida. Only the babysitter, with a port stain birthmark the shape of Minnesota on her face, thinks its romantic.

In Florida, he makes another transformation, first to a bearded beatnik, and then when he realizes poverty doesn't suit him, no matter how pretty his young girlfriend is, he takes another step becoming a fake Jew to land a rich friend of his girlfriend's parents. She is a smart, successful woman who has had many men and thought there were always be more. There weren't. There was only the cancer, first in one breast, before Kimble and then in the other, leaving her dead. Kimble leaves town quickly, leaving his transient Jewishness behind but taking the millions he made from being connected with her family. Joan's kindness doesn't seem to have rubbed off on him, but he adopts her tastes and way of living.

We find the last Mrs. Kimble in Washington.
Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Leigh A. Taft on August 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
This novel was immediately engrossing. I was fascinated with this Ken Kimble & the three women he seduced, wed, & betrayed. This novel is all the more mesmerizing b/c we never hear Ken's side of the story. We remain in these women's shoes just watching it all unfold. Haigh captures the essence of women & how we think within these pages. These three women are all very different, yet all fall prey to this charismatic, elusive man.

It's simply fascinating watching it all unfold. You tend to forget it's fiction!
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