Walter Kirn "should be sentenced to a lifetime writing fiction," proclaimed The New York Times Book Review about his short story collection, My Hard Bargain. The Christian Science-Monitor praised his "engaging blend of deadpan humor and genuine empathy"; "Thankfully," said The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Kirn never abandons his theme of uncertainty when observing modern angst." Now Walter Kirn has fashioned She Needed Me, a moving, surprising, and darkly comic novel whose sympathetic portrait of a disillusioned ...
Walter Kirn "should be sentenced to a lifetime writing fiction," proclaimed The New York Times Book Review about his short story collection, My Hard Bargain. The Christian Science-Monitor praised his "engaging blend of deadpan humor and genuine empathy"; "Thankfully," said The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Kirn never abandons his theme of uncertainty when observing modern angst." Now Walter Kirn has fashioned She Needed Me, a moving, surprising, and darkly comic novel whose sympathetic portrait of a disillusioned generation is mercifully uncynical. Weaver Walquist and Kim Lindgren first meet outside a St. Paul, Minnesota, abortion clinic. Kim - twenty-three, pregnant, with no money to finish junior college - is about to walk inside. Weaver is lying in front of the door. At twenty-six, he is a Bible-carrying member of the Conscience Squad, a fanatical right-wing protest group...yet readers of all minds will be drawn to this gentle, questing soul as he struggles with his feelings for Kim and his subsequent sexual desire for her; his crumbling devotion to the church; and his waning loyalty to his employer, Sanipure, a Christian soap and cosmetics company that calls sales "fellowship moments." But Weaver was not always devout. The only child of a widowed, highly successful Wisconsin liquor store owner, he tried to ward off teenage isolation with a mixture of pot and pills, vodka, sex and heavy metal music, until born-again Christian Lucas Boone found him half dead on the floor of a Greyhound station men's room. As Weaver tries to persuade Kim to have her baby, they embark upon a journey that brings them into contact with a cast of keenly drawn characters: Chuck and Dixie Lindgren, Kim's parents, who made more money in one hot Las Vegas weekend than they ever earned from their North Dakota farm; charismatic, paranoid Lucas Boone, popping anti-depressant pills like candy; Kim's disaffected brother, Ricky, who makes a modest living burglarizing his relatives' homes; and fin
The narrator of this ironic first novel, Weaver Walquist, a born-again Christian and member of a militant anti-abortion group, slowly falls in love with Kim Lindgren, a pregnant junior college dropout whom he meets at a St. Paul, Minn., abortion clinic. Weaver, once a devotee of pot and heavy-metal music, wants to rescue Kim from sin by persuading her to keep the baby rather than have an abortion. This self-righteous zealot has an overwhelming need to control and dominate women; he seethes with repressed rage at his domineering mother, Margaret, a widow who runs a Wisconsin liquor store and sends him a monthly check. In spare, nervous prose, Kirn (author of a story collection, My Hard Bargain ) succeeds brilliantly in fathoming the mindset of a moralistic misogynist, but Weaver's harrowing, bleak vision casts a pall over the whole novel. Weaver's violent showdown with Lucas Boone, a Prozac-popping, knife-wielding paranoid and rapist who heads the anti-abortion squad, signals the protagonist's leap to freedom and his last-minute realization that Kim, and every woman, has the right to have control over her own body. Kim, a greeting-card designer, is not a very interesting figure, and her disapproving parents, who own a North Dakota dairy farm, are self-centered nincompoops who belie the stereotypes of wholesome farmers. Kirn's shrewd insight into Weaver's motivations saves this timely melodrama from didacticism, but just barely. (Oct.)
Weaver Walquist, substance abuser turned fundamentalist, meets Kim Lindgren at a most unlikely time--while he is protesting in front of the Minneapolis abortion clinic she is about to enter. Despite their differences, these two troubled individuals develop a curiously symbiotic relationship, an alliance tenuously balanced between friendship and unacknowledged love. Kim's pregnancy leads Weaver to attempt reconciliations with both their estranged families. After a disastrous visit to Kim's North Dakota home, they find refuge, and an unexpected resolution, with Weaver's mother in Wisconsin. Kirn sensitively portrays his main characters' painful emotional waltz, perfectly capturing the hesitancy and mistrust that sabotages their yearning. While the moral dilemmas of abortion play a part in this bittersweet tale, the novel focuses more on the hearts of its protagonists, touching the reader's heart along the way. Recommended for most collections.-- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.