Piker Press Banner
May 20, 2024

Review in Haiku: The Used World

By Katrina Stonoff

Abandoned baby
bonds women of resale shop
into family.

I had never read Haven Kimmel before my local bookseller gave me a copy of The Used World, though I certainly was aware of her and knew I would eventually read her. And as I expected, I did like the book.

It's quirky, as is obvious from the setting in the very first chapter: The Used World, an antique and resale emporium where the protagonists work together. When a baby is abandoned on the doorstep, the three women find themselves doing more than just working together. They begin to form a family.

In the Preface (an odd not-chapter that makes me wonder why Kimmel included it), we see an image of Claudia in front of a mirror. Claudia is nearly androgynous: almost six feet tall, with a man's haircut. She wears an enormous sweater and pajama bottoms that came from an old man's estate, safety-pinned because of a missing button. The pajama bottoms, especially, tell the reader on the first page that this is an author with an eye for the unusual.

My favorite character was Rebekah, scarred from her upbringing in a Fundamentalist culture not so different from the one in which I was raised. The third point-of-view character is Hazel, owner of the Emporium, a woman half living in her past.

In the end, I didn't love the book like I expected. It's a little longer than I would have chosen. And I prefer tightly focused stories with a single point-of-view character. Kimmel includes a lot of backstory (things that happened to the characters before the book began), and it tends to slow the pace. The weaving in and out of time can be confusing. And I prefer more action and less description.

Still, there's no question Kimmel has a distinct command over language. In the opening scene I mentioned earlier, where Claudia stands in front of the mirror sifting through her memories, Kimmel mentions all that remained of Claudia's mother on earth are "what was ambered in Claudia's memory." Lovely, lovely phrase, that.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-02-02
0 Reader Comments
Your Comments

The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.