Haigh, Jennifer 1968-
HAIGH, Jennifer 1968-
PERSONAL: Born 1968, in PA. Education: Graduated from Dickinson College, 1990; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 2002.
ADDRESSES: Home—Hull, MA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer. Worked as an editor at Self and taught yoga.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright teaching fellowship; James A. Michener fellowship, 2002; Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction, 2004, for Mrs. Kimble.
Mrs. Kimble, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including stories to Good Housekeeping, Alaska Quarterly Review, Idaho Review, and Global City Review, and articles to Men's Health and Cosmopolitan.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A second novel, titled Baker Towers, scheduled for publication by Morrow in 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Jennifer Haigh's debut novel, Mrs. Kimble, is actually about the lives of three Mrs. Kimbles, all of whom at some point in time are married to 'serial husband' Ken Kimble.
Karma Sawka reviewed the novel for Mostly Fiction online, saying that "each of the women that Ken Kimble develops relationships with has such human needs—love, acceptance, companionship—and he is so charming. The sad ways in which he deceives them are rendered with compassion and realism by Ms. Haigh. I felt for these women, whose lives were so altered by someone they believe truly loved them, but someone the reader knows will betray each of them as the story unfolds."
On the Baker Books Web site, Haigh said that the three women "aren't victims. Ken Kimble isn't some kind of sociopath. He is, in fact, a very ordinary man; he simply takes what is given to him." Haigh called her novel "a meditation on marriage: why women hunger for it, what we're willing to sacrifice in order to have it."
The story opens with first-wife Birdie Bell, already abandoned, in a deep depression and succumbing to alcoholism. In the early 1960s, Birdie dropped out of bible college to marry Ken, the choir director, fourteen years her senior. Ken was fired and the couple moved to Virginia, where he had been offered another job. After eight years of marriage, he left Birdie and their two children, Charlie and Jody, for another young student, Moira Snell. Birdie, who doesn't drive and has spent all of her married life at home, is unable to cope, and while she finds relief in a wine bottle, her children survive on peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
Ken and Moira go to Florida, where he meets her parents, who are his age, and their friend, Joan, a never-married Jewish New York journalist and a breast-cancer survivor who is living at the estate of her recently deceased father. Joan invites Ken to stay at her place, and seeing an opportunity, Ken lies to her, telling her that his mother was Jewish, and he is soon married to Joan and working in the family real estate business.
Ten years later, Ken is a wealthy widower when he meets Dinah, a Washington D.C. chef who had been his children's babysitter years ago in Richmond. Dinah's face is disfigured by a large birthmark that Ken, with all his resources, is able to have removed, and the now gray-haired businessman marries the beautiful young blond, who then abandons her own career, and they have a son. After fifteen years of marriage, Dinah begins to realize who her husband really is when his business dealings come into question.
Curled Up with a Good Book contributor Stephanie Perry commented that Haigh's writing "is solid and meaty, nicely portraying (though not explaining) the conflicting emotions that plague the three Mrs. Kimbles. The dialogue is convincing and natural, particularly that of Charlie, who learns to be the man of the house at a young age, and never sheds his resentment at being forced into the role by his father's absence. Although logic dictates that at least two of the three marriages don't last, the storytelling is nuanced and rich enough to keep us in suspense, waiting each time for the other marital shoe to drop."
A Kirkus Reviews writer remarked that Haigh's "measured prose and care for detail show a promising talent." Phoebe Kate Foster reviewed the novel for Pop Matters online, writing that "on the surface, it might be easily dismissed as an all-too-familiar cautionary account of what happens when women depend too much on men to validate them and use them to fill in the blanks in their psyches much as one fills in empty spaces in a day planner. The book does work, to some extent, at this level. . . . But there is a great deal more going on here than a refresher course in Feminist Principles 101. Haigh's deft hand at sculpting her female characters leaves no room for easy stereotypes and tidily glib plot summaries. Like a surgeon, she cuts to the bone of what makes love between two people such an elusive, baffling, frustrating, contradictory, confounding sort of thing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, March-April, 2003, Susan Tekulve, review of Mrs. Kimble, p. 74.
Booklist, November 15, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Mrs. Kimble, p. 548.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Mrs.Kimble, p. 1643.
Library Journal, January, 2003, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of Mrs. Kimble, p. 154.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 2003, review of Mrs.Kimble, p. 58.
Baker Books,http://bakerbooks.net/ (October 15, 2003), "A Note from Author Jennifer Haigh."
Book Page,http://www.bookpage.com/ (February, 2003), Anne Morris, review of Mrs. Kimble.
BookReporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 15, 2003), Shannon Bloomstran, review of Mrs. Kimble.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (October 15, 2003), Stephanie Perry, review of Mrs. Kimble.
Dickinson Magazine,http://www.dickinson.edu/magazine/ (March 22, 2004), Jillian Cohan, feature on Jennifer Haigh.
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (February 20, 2003), Karma Sawka, review of Mrs. Kimble.
New York Metro,http://www.newyorkmetro.com/ (October 15, 2003), John Homans, review of Mrs. Kimble.
Pop Matters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (April 2, 2003), Phoebe Kate Foster, review of Mrs. Kimble.*