Something Rising (Light and Swift)

Something Rising (Light and Swift)

3.5 9
by Haven Kimmel
     
 

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Cassie Claiborne's world is riddled with problems beyond her control: her hard-living, pool-shooting father has another wife; her mother can't seem to move herself mentally away from the kitchen window; and her sister Belle is a tempest of fragility and brilliance. Frustrated by her inability to care for so many, Cassie finds in the local pool hall an oasis of

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Overview

Cassie Claiborne's world is riddled with problems beyond her control: her hard-living, pool-shooting father has another wife; her mother can't seem to move herself mentally away from the kitchen window; and her sister Belle is a tempest of fragility and brilliance. Frustrated by her inability to care for so many, Cassie finds in the local pool hall an oasis of green felt where she can master objects and restrain her emotions.
As Cassie grows up, 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 from past wrongs and freeing herself from her life's inertia. In this uplifting story, Haven Kimmel reaches deep into the hamstrung souls of her fictional corner of Indiana to create an astonishing work of pure heartbreak.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Something Rising (Light and Swift) is a stunner of a story that continues Kimmel's tradition of mixing page-turning narrative with heartbreaking honesty...Kimmel is a master of making [details] — the stuff of everyday life — endlessly readable."
BookPage

"Kimmel, who clearly knows her way around a pool table, writes some mean sentences, as crisp as a perfectly executed bank shot."
USA Today

"Kimmel reveals a Midwest that lies beyond the normal small-town,apple pie, heartland caricatures...Sam Shepard, eat your heart out!"
Elle

"Haven Kimmel hustles up a girl to steal your heart...If this book were a pool game, Kimmel would run the table all night long."
Newsweek

Publishers Weekly
Kimmel returns to the semirural Indiana of her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and her witty novel, The Solace of Leaving Early, to recount, in graceful episodes, the troubled coming-of-age of Cassie Claiborne, who balances "on the fulcrum of happiness and despair." Following a stage-setting prologue, the book opens with 10-year-old Cassie waiting, as usual, for her irresponsible, often absent father. Jimmy Claiborne is a selfish lout who cares more for pool than his family ("You know you're my favorite, Cassie, although God knows that ain't saying much"), but his love for the game soon becomes Cassie's when his friend Bud teaches her to play. As a teenager, she's a pool shark, paying the bills for her defeated, distant mother, Laura, and taking care of her overachieving, agoraphobic sister, Belle. Understandably, she'd like a better life. After Jimmy splits for good-divorcing his wife and emancipating his daughters-Laura waxes nostalgic about an old boyfriend in New Orleans whom she left for Cassie's father. Cassie fantasizes about how things might have been had her mother stayed with that man, "her shadow father." At 30, Cassie has become a strong-willed feminist (though she'd never call herself that) who goes to New Orleans to defeat her demons and her mother's old boyfriend in a game of nine-ball. Kimmel's characters are sympathetic and believable, and the author proves herself equally deft at conveying smalltown desolation and the physics of pool. With a tougher core than her previous books, and an ending that's redemptive without being clich d, Kimmel's latest is another winner. Agent, Bill Clegg. (Jan. 6) Forecast: Aggressive promotion-including a 15-city author tour-should help Kimmel build her fiction readership, which has yet to match the response to her memoir. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After a memoir (A Girl Named Zippy) and a debut novel (The Solace of Leaving Early), both well-received works with a lyrical bent, Kimmel attempts something different: the rough-and-tough story of a teenaged girl who helps support her family by working construction and shooting pool for money. Cassie does her best after her shark/hustler father abandons the family in small-town Indiana. The going-nowhere losers, the phobic and reclusive older sister, the seemingly passive mother, and the tender grandfather are all carefully drawn. Better yet is Uncle Bud, proprietor of the local pool hall, who teaches Cassie what she needs to know, supports her emotionally and sometimes financially, and shepherds her into adulthood. Cassie has two men to conquer: her father and the rich New Orleans doctor her mother might have married. More development of Cassie's character would have helped, and the ending is perhaps too suddenly sweet, but we should buy this one to encourage this talented author.-Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second-novelist Kimmel (The Solace of Leaving Early, 2002, etc.) describes a young pool hustler's coming of age in rural 1980s Indiana. Cassandra ("Cassie") Claiborne has a father bad enough to be hated but too memorable to be forgotten. Jimmy Claiborne met Cassie's mother Laura in a diner in New Orleans, where Laura worked as a waitress. Genteel and quintessentially southern, Laura comes across as a tragicomic figure in the tradition of Blanche DuBois, forever pining for the childhood innocence she lost when she made her one great mistake: falling in love with Jimmy. Throwing over any number of other badly smitten suitors, she moved north with him to Indiana, where he almost immediately began abandoning her for weeks or months at a time as he pursued his passion for gambling in general and pool especially. Cassie and her older sister Belle grew up used to their father's long absences and their mother's rambling laments for the world that she left behind in New Orleans. Temperamentally different (Belle is intellectual and timid, Cassie forceful and ingenious in a tomboyish kind of way), the two sisters are united in their resentment of Jimmy, who eventually shacks up with his trailer-trash girlfriend and files for divorce after the fact. Cassie emulates her father in one respect only: pool, which she learned at an early age from watching him hustle. By the time she's in her teens, Cassie is more than her father's equal, and she uses her skill not only to support her abandoned mother and sister but (in a revenge match equal to anything in The Hustler) to repay Jimmy for all his years of neglect. A bit too lugubrious for an elegy, a bit too lighthearted for a caper: still, a serviceableaccount of a young woman finding her own way in a twilit world of regret and loss. Agent: Bill Clegg/Burnes & Clegg

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743247771
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
03/22/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
0.66(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

The man standing across from Cassie had nearly a thousand dollars on the line and a pale absence where his wedding ring should have been. He registered on her periphery: his anger, his receding hairline, the slick shirt, the way he leaned against the corner pocket so that she had to look directly at him as she studied the shot. Cassie noticed these things without thought, the same way she could see Uncle Bud behind the bar, drying glasses and keeping his eye on her, without looking in his direction.

The man had left a mess on the table. Cassie paced, dropped her stick up and down on the toe of her boot. On the break he had sunk the 6 and the 2 and had cleared the 1 and 3 quickly. But he left the 4 stranded close to the rail and the cue ball downtable, taking a safety. Cassie had to do many things at once — get to the 4; sink the 4; position the cue ball to take the recalcitrant 5; get back down for the 7; release the 8 from where it was stranded; and sink the 9 — but the whole process felt like one thing, the way walking doesn't feel like a thousand articulated events. Just one event.

Some nights she saw the table as a plane, all four sides extending infinitely, and at those times she couldn't lose. But on other nights, and against opponents like her current one (the Lounge Singer, she'd dubbed him), she fell to earth and used what she could find there. The table was actual and massive, and its borders were discrete. She imagined two protractors joined at the horizontal line, forming a perfect circle, and everything outside that circle was darkness, and all she needed to know was inside. From the ball to the pocket was one side of an angle; from the cue ball to the object ball was the other side. And there, invisible, where the cue and the object met, or would meet: the vertex, her desire. She dreamed sometimes that her whole life was funneled into that point of contact and could be measured in the old ways: acute, right, obtuse, a reflex.

The man across the table had had too much to drink, had bet too much money, and was now showing her his black edge. It was just a look around his eyes, a flush of throat. He thought she'd never take the 4, and he was terrified she would. Cassie stopped behind the cue ball, imagined the table flipped into a mirror image, and considered a bank shot. After she'd done her best with angles, the rest was physics. Distance, velocity, and acceleration. The transfer of momentum. And something else: a sensation she'd never understood that caused her throat to close and her heart to pound. She was addicted to the feeling, even though it arrived like heartbreak, with the same thunder and autonomy. The 4 was too far away, but if she kept her eye on what her opponent couldn't see, the bisections and intersecting lines, the ghosts, she believed she could do it.

She bent so far at the waist that her chin rested on top of the cue, and the lines on the table shifted like a computer design in a war room. The two practice strokes rubbed lightly against the underside of her chin, where she was developing a permanent red line. On the third stroke, a medium shot, the cue ball traveled the length of the table; the Lounge Singer opened his mouth, closed it again. He hadn't expected the backspin, the way the bank happened so fast, sending the 4 right past the 8 and into the corner pocket without a sigh of resistance. The cue ball rolled and stopped six inches from the 5, and then it was over. The 5, the 7, the 8. She sank the 9 lightly, stepped away from the table, and rocked her head from side to side. Her shoulders ached.

Her opponent started to say something, but Uncle Bud filled the doorway like a piece of furniture. "Pay her," he said.

The man reached into his pocket, shaking from the loss, and pulled out a stack of bills held together with a tarnished old clip. His waistband was sweat-stained, and now that she'd beaten him, Cassie had to turn away from seeing him too closely. She took the money, said thanks. He slipped out past Uncle Bud without a word, past the players at the other tables, the regulars who came late and stayed late and seemed to pay attention to no one.

Cassie unscrewed the butt of her cue from the shaft, wiped it down, and put the two parts away as Bud gathered the balls and brushed the felt on the table. When she was ready to go, he walked her to the back door and watched her wheel her bike down the back stairs.

"You going straight home?" he asked.

Cassie nodded.

"He was driving a white Caprice. You see him between here and your house, get off your bike."

"Okay," Cassie said.

"Or else go ahead and knock the crap out of him, I don't care which."

"Okay."

Cassie pulled her cap down over her ears, wheeled out on to the main street of Roseville, where every business was long closed and every resident was long asleep. At the edge of town she leaned into the wind and sped up, past the flat fields of central Indiana, expanses that stretched as far as she could see. She sped down the Price Dairy Road in the complete dark, her headlight casting an arc before her, then turned on to her road, the King's Crossing, which met Price Dairy at a ninety-degree angle. She headed for her house, where her sister, Belle, slept on one line and her mother, Laura, slept on another; and where her father, Jimmy, the vertex, was entirely absent; where there was nothing she could do. No shot to take. No safety.

A light glowed in the trailer at the rear of the property, where her grandfather Poppy lived with his dogs. Poppy left the light on for her, and the dogs didn't bark. Cassie carried her bicycle up the three back stairs and into the laundry room, took off her jacket, and hung her cue case on a hook. The air in the kitchen was gray with Laura's cigarette smoke. Cassie poured herself a glass of orange juice, leaned against the sink. It was two in the morning, and she needed to get up at six-thirty to be at school on time. Her eyes burned, and she let them close, leaning there against the sink in the silent house. She had always hated school, had hated it until recently, when suddenly the girl who had been expelled six times for fighting, who had flunked every subject in one semester last year (including badminton), began collecting report cards that were different from years past. In this, the spring of her tenth-grade year, she had done poorly in everything but math. Her teacher, astonished, had sent a letter to Laura that said one thing: She's a natural.

Copyright © 2004 by Haven Kimmel

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