Book Review: Something Rising (Light and Swift), by Haven Kimmel

Ok, well, I liked Something Rising (Light and Swift) by Haven Kimmel. It’s just that I really wanted to LOVE this book, because the writing is beautiful and the author comes with such rich acclaim.  But I felt I was kept at arm’s length from the heart of this book, like I should have been content being just a spectator when I really wanted to be a participant.

The main character of this novel is Cassie Clairborne, who I suppose (to the casual observer) could be called a pool hustler.  I love how she explains herself, though:  “‘I play American pool, not English billiards, and I’m not a shark.  That would be a person who pretended not to be a good player, then stole the money of her opponent.  I just announce myself, I say I’ve come to a place to play their best, and for money, and that person is called.  Or I wait for him.'[…] ‘And do they, would they beat you?’ ‘No,’ Cassie said. ‘No, they wouldn’t.'”  The novel follows her “coming of age” in rural Indiana.

I love Cassie Clairborne, that much I can say without hesitation.  She is complicated, so tough, so tender.  Your heart breaks for her.  I thought there would be many more poolhall scenes, but the fact that she plays pool is really just a consequence of her life experience, not the center of it.  Pool is how she processes all of the pain and hurt and confusion she feels from the rest of her world.

I also love Kimmel’s writing style, which is at times very lyrical.  The pace of the plot, though, was what killed it for me.  I joked with my husband that this book – even at a mere 269 pages – is a “skimmer’s paradise,” meaning that you could skim several large passage (even pages!) and jump back in with the plot having only moved forward just a skoche.  I think I missed a lot of Kimmel’s literary flourishes, but I could not convince myself to digest every single word.

Still, there is a different air to this book, and it is redeemed in the end by a handful of giant leaps in the storyline.  I ended satisfied, if not completely enthusiastic.

Related Link:  not a link, but the text from the book jacket.  because i think it does an extraordinary job capturing the sense of this novel:

In her first two books, Haven Kimmel claimed her spot on the literary scene- surprising readers with her memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and winning an outpouring of critical acclaim for her first novel, The Solace of Leaving Early. Now, in her second novel, she brings to the page a heroine’s tireless quest for truth, love, justice, and the perfect game of 9-ball.Cassie Claiborne’s world is riddled with problems beyond her control: her hard- living, pool-shooting father has another wife; her stoic, long-suffering mother is incapable of moving herself mentally away from the kitchen window; her sister Belle is a tempest of fragility and brilliance; her closest friends, Puck and Emmy, are adolescent harbingers of their own doomed futures. Frustrated by her inability to care deeply enough for so many troubled souls, Cassie finds in the local pool hall an oasis of green felt where she can master objects and restrain her emotions.As Cassie grows from a quietly complex girl into a headstrong young woman, she takes on the thankless role of family provider by working odd jobs and hustling pool. All the while, she keeps her eye on the ultimate prize: wringing suitable justice out of past wrongs and freeing herself from the inertia that is her life.In this ultimately uplifting story, Haven Kimmel reaches deep into the hamstrung souls of her fictional corner of Indiana. Remarkable for its tough tenderness, Something Rising (Light and Swift) is an astonishing work of pure heartbreak.


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