Sunday, November 18, 2012

In Love with Marriage

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh is the story of a man, Ken Kimble, told through the eyes of his three successive wives.  The first, Birdie, was Ken's choir student when he taught at her Bible college in the 1960s.  When Ken leaves, Birdie's life starts a downward spiral, which eventually leads her to a night in a dirty bar straight out of Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. In walking away from Birdie, Ken is also walking away from his two children with her, Charlie and Jody.  The next wife, Joan, is older than Birdie, and richer.  For her, Ken forgets his past as a minister, and suddenly becomes a Jewish Realtor.  The third wife, Dinah, is a few years older than Birdie was when Ken married her, but the gap in ages between Dinah and Ken, and the way he treats her as an accessory, leave Dinah feeling "like the punch line to a dirty joke."

The author describes Ken Kimble as a "serial husband", who is somehow able to convince each of his wives that he is exactly what she needs.  That Kimble can accomplish that is something of a feat, as one apparently needed a Christian minister and one would only marry a Jewish businessman.  Haigh maintains that Kimble is not a sociopath, and his wives are not victims.  While he may not be sociopathic, Kimble is absolutely a big fat liar, with no feeling for anyone other than himself.

We are only told about three Mrs. Kimbles, but at the end I was left wondering if there were any more.  When Ken married Birdie, he was already in his thirties, which seems old for a first marriage, for a man so much in love with getting married.

This book sat unread in my nightstand for years.  As such, it is fitting that it is the final book for the Off the Shelf Challenge.  When I picked it up, I thought that there was some connection between Mrs. Kimble and The Hours by Michael Cunningham.  Specifically, I had the notion that this book was supposed to expand on Cunningham's character, Mrs. Brown.  Birdie and Mrs. Brown are cut from a similar cloth, and would probably be great friends, but I can't find any indication that this was intentional.  I think that my idea may have come from the cover of Mrs. Kimble, which shows dresses that three different women would wear.  These are obviously for the three different Mrs. Kimbles, but they actually would fit the three women in Cunningham's novel just as well.

Next up on CD:  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Still Reading:  Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

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