Something Rising (Light and Swift) by Haven Kimmel
Cassie stood, stretched herself out, then went inside for her backpack, which had been Jimmy's long ago when he had mistakenly thought himself a Boy Scout. This was a mystery to Cassie, how the true nature of a person can be so thoroughly concealed in youth that he does humiliating things. It meant Cassie herself could do them, and later someone would hold out the object--a dress, a party favor, an unsent letter--and convict her. She was trying to redeem the backpack.
The main character, Cassie Claiborne, is the daughter of a mostly-absent pool hustler father and a withdrawn, mourning mother. Her older sister, Belle, grows from an odd child into an extremely eccentric adult. Even as a child, Cassie is strong for her sister, for her mother, for her friends. When her father finally leaves for good, she hustles pool and works odd jobs to pay the bills and support Belle and their mother. In The Solace of Leaving Early, Kimmel reveals early on that Langston's brother Taos is gone, and that the circumstances of his absence are tragic, but it's not until nearly the end that the reader finds out what happened. The move works well, creating interest and slight tension without feeling like an obtrusively dangling carrot. In Something Rising, the lure is the knowledge that Cassie's father Jimmy will leave. It's not so much finding out why he leaves, but examining how his leaving resonates through Cassie's life, that makes this carrot worth chasing.
Cassie grows up angry, but in the end she finds a way to escape the trap her life has always been, and the journey is endearing and beautiful, though sad at times. The final task of Cassie's struggle to accept the truths of her life / upbringing was masterfully written and emotionally gripping. The most surprising aspect of the book, to me, was a one-line revelation of a small truth about a minor character that ratcheted up my respect for Kimmel's story-weaving skills to a whole new level. I can't say anything more than that, but I hope if you read both novels (and you should) you'll enjoy the moment as much as I did.
The groundhog was lying belly up. He'd been a fat little guy. Cassie studied his face: dead. Also, his small, expressive hands, curled now: dead. She put the shovel under him and felt that he'd--
"What is it, Cassie, do you know?"
--been turned to liquid. There weren't bones or organs to offer any resistance. The Pig Dogs had had a time with this one. She got the shovel under his back and tried to lift it; he was very heavy, in addition to being liquid, and he rolled off the end of the shovel and landed facedown.
"I'm going in, I'm not watching this. Take it across the road and over the fence. Drop it over the fence, Cassie, so those dogs can't get to it and bring it right back. Do you hear me?"
Cassie got the shovel under his belly and tried to lift him. He rolled off and landed on his back, and that was about all it took for Cassie to see what she was up against. Her shoulders strained and her back began to sweat. It wasn't his weight so much as the fact of him down at the end of the long shovel, and her up at the other end. She gripped the shovel in the middle of the handle, stuck it under the groundhog's back, he was maybe easier to lift this way, but he rolled off and landed on his belly. Simply by turning him over repeatedly, she'd managed to get him a few feet across the yard, so she did that some more: turned him again and again, rolling him like a sausage in a pan. Belly up, belly down. They made it across the road and to the ditch, and putting him in the ditch was no good, Belle would know or the dogs would know. The sun was a violence against Cassie's back, sweat ran toward her eyes. She took off her T-shirt, wiped her face with it, then covered her hands and grabbed him by the paws, his front two in her left hand, his back two in her right. She turned herself sideways, spun around twice, then let him fly, across the ditch and over the fence. At the peak of his flight his back was arched like a high jumper's, his chin tilted regally, his arms and legs were loose in surrender. Cassie was, at ten, a child who would have to learn to look away.
Labels: Haven Kimmel