This ambitious debut novel focuses on three women, but it centers on their relationships with one man. Ken Kimble is a minister who converts himself into a real estate agent and a marrying machine. In rapid succession, he weds Birdie, Joan, and Dinah. Each woman is idealistic, yet self-doubting; each falls easy prey to the swift manipulations of ex-Reverend Ken. A graceful novel about women learning to heal themselves.
Jennifer Haigh's Mrs. Kimble focuses a laser on that most irrational of decisions whom to marry... Though the premise seems overly schematic, the result is an affecting tale of the power of a charismatic predator and the acquiescence of his victims.... Haigh is spare and low-key, masterful at delineating the quiet but revealing moment... Mrs. Kimble can be enjoyed as a sharply observed study of three women and the same stubborn, misplaced hopes that shape their lives.The Boston Globe
This gripping debut novel examines how easily shrewd lies can be mistaken for acts of love. Spanning twenty-five years, it recounts the stories of three women who marry the same elusive man in succession. Alternately wise, charming and cold blooded, Ken Kimble is as charismatic as Mephistopheles, a sweet liar who promises each woman what she wants most of all in exchange for her complete devotion. To his first wife, Birdie Bell, he offers a way out of her small Southern town. To his second wife, Joan Cohen, a lonely heiress and breast cancer survivor, he offers hope for a final chance at love. His third wife, Dinah Whitacre, is a woman half his age who is disfigured by a birthmark on her face. Before marrying her, Kimble provides an operation that restores her beauty. With each successive marriage, Kimble gains wealth and worldly experience while his wives compromise themselves and fall apart. Haigh renders Kimble's sociopathic behavior in quiet, understated prose, carefully examining the mitigating circumstances that draw each woman to him. Though Kimble's rise to power drives the plot, the sophisticated portraits of his three wives provide the substance and intrigue in this book.
The three women who successively marry Ken Kimble all believe they've found the perfect partner, and all are proven wrong in Haigh's uneven debut. Birdie is a student at a Southern Bible college in the early 1960s when she meets Kimble, then a handsome young choir director; they marry less than a year later, a day before she turns 19. After seven unfaithful years of marriage, Ken walks out on Birdie and their two young children, leaving the hard-drinking Birdie impoverished. Ken next surfaces in Florida in 1969, engaged to a formerly ambitious coed who dropped out of college to travel the country with him. He summarily dumps her to court 39-year-old Joan Cohen, a strong-willed Newsweek reporter who is recovering from breast cancer surgery. He marries her (after falsely telling her that he's Jewish) and joins her rich uncle in his real estate business. A few years and one miscarriage later, the marriage has quietly soured, and a few years after that Joan has a recurrence of cancer and dies. Ken's third wife is the much-younger Dinah, who used to be his children's baby-sitter. This marriage survives Ken's rise to prominence in Washington, D.C., as the founder of a successful charity. Haigh's women are believable, if a touch clich d, but Ken is a cipher. Haigh leaves us guessing about his motivations, and his irresistible appeal to these women-especially the tough-minded Joan-also remains murky. The novel has sharply incisive passages, but Haigh's thin characterizations don't quite live up to the promise of the clever, intricate premise. #1 Book Sense selection for March/April; Author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.