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on May 19, 2005
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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"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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on April 22, 2003
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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on September 17, 2003
This is a good debut novel. The concept is intriguing - a chameleon-like man who changes identities to match the women he marries, preys upon their weaknesses, and changes their lives. The portrays of the women were fascinating, well-drawn and sympathetic - I really rooted for Birdie in the beginning, hoping she would recover from Ken and move on, and then felt increasingly sad and frustrated when it became clear she would not recover. Joan, the second wife, became ill and never had the chance to recover, and finally Dinah, the third wife, made the triumphant recovery. The weakness of the book was Ken - why on earth were these women so lovestruck with a man who was a bad lover, no companion, had horrible table manners, uninteresting, a liar...Birdie I could understand, but Joan's obsession just didn't quite work, and Dinah's just seemed unbelievable - she was almost contemptuous of him throughout the marriage, but she stayed, and stayed, and stayed. And finally, I felt the ending was weak because it made him too one-dimensionally evil - even destroying his business success. He would have been more interesting had he been shown as more of a person and less of a caricature.
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on August 9, 2005
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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on July 30, 2003
The story of three women who marry an elusive con man. Ken Kimble is a human amoeba capable of morphing into whatever shape pleases the woman he wants. The novelist's focus is on the three very different women who are his victims, and each portrayal is subtle and all too real. The skill with which the women are drawn is amazing in so young a writer, as is her perceptive and never sentimental picture of Kimble's three children. The dialogue is as real as life. One could only wish for a bit more depth in the description of the women's background and character. As for Kimble, such a person could never be made understandable--revinvention of himself to suit the moment is his very nature.
A highly original work from a writer who promises much.
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VINE VOICEon May 2, 2005
I became aware of this book while reading the reviews of the author's latest book "Baker Towers." This one looked intriguing so I thought I would give it a try. I was taken with it after the first 40 pages. I felt a connection with each of the wives. In the beginning, you wonder why these women fell for this man. But as you read it starts to make sense. These are three damaged women who needed the kind of attention this man was willing to provide to first. I liked the way the author wove the story of Charlie into the book as well. This is a beautifully written book that I never lost interest in. I hope "Baker Towers" is as good.
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on March 6, 2007
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. Dinah Whitacre, the girl with the birthmark who had babysat the children he abandoned, is found working in the back kitchen of a restaurant. She's good at the job and comfortable, since no one can see her. The staring gets old. After hitting her with his car, Kimble takes care of Dinah much the way Joan took care of him years earlier, he even gets laser treatments for her face. After six treatments, they make love and by the time she heals from the accident, they are engaged.

Those are the broad masses of land in the story, but there are so many other tributaries with great scenery, the life long secret love between the first Mrs. Kimble and her childhood friend Curtis Mabry, the son of their black housekeeper. Though some reviewers asked what happened to make Mr. Kimble like he was, that was not a question that occurred to me. I wondered rather what it is in life that keeps all of us from becoming like him, afraid to stay and muddle through the ordinary details of relationships and parenting, always starting over as if life were a game of freecell.

It struck me that Mr. Kimble had been duplicitous long before he met Birdie (wife #1). He'd somehow convinced himself and others that he wanted to be a minister and live a life of sacrifice and giving to truly help young people. That it itself was a culmination of lies. I'd also think that the way he was able to act as though his children never existed, he didn't have a close relationship with his own father. At any rate, Mr. Kimble is just life, ordinary grass turned clover, cropping up all over with no thought for who or what he crowded out.

Crafted in fine, yet simple language, this book will have me thinking for days to come. It's an excellent novel.
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on March 18, 2004
I loved the book! It is a fascinating character study and story that I just didn't want to put down. Each of the women is unique, and yet by the end of the book I could find the common link that allows them all to be duped by charming and decietful Mr. Kimble. I found the so-called holes in the book quite intentional and quite functional. The "holes" are part of Ken Kimble's personna; they stopped me from dwelling on Ken Kimble, and they kept my focus on the wives and the families. The book is aptly titled Mrs. Kimble, not Mr. Kimble. A fine story, with a well joined beginning and end! Jennifer Haigh did a great job with this novel!
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on October 15, 2005
I read this book in two days and could not put it down. It is a well crafted very readable tale. Ken Kimble is a charming chameleon like sociopathic predator who preys on vulnerable women or on strong woman at vulnerable times. Each of his contributions to his three marriages are described on page 237 by Joan "...He had lied to her about the deepest thing; their marriage was founded on a lie..." He leaves his two children by his first wife forever scarred. His son Charlie who recognizes his destructive father as a fraud by the age of six describes himself on page 367 as"...defective in some basic way, broken in places that couldn't be fixed."
At one point Ken Kimble is a christian minister. When it is convenient he is a Jew. For one woman he becomes a hippie. Yet for another he becomes impeccably groomed and attired in custom made garments. No one ever really knows him and the only person he loves is Ken Kimble. We are left with the feeling that he has ruined the lives of characters not mentioned in the book. We know he has committed a number of financial frauds. He reminded me of an actor playing roles changing his costume and scenary as it fits his purpose. He cares nothing for his children abandoning them without regret or remembrance. People like him exist in society and are more common than one would think. This novel gives the reader an inside look at this troubling predator.
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