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The Solace of Leaving Early

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  2,748 Ratings  ·  436 Reviews
Using small-town life as a springboard to explore the loftiest of ideas, Haven Kimmel’s irresistibly smart and generous first novel is at once a romance and a haunting meditation on grief and faith. Langston Braverman returns to Haddington, Indiana (pop. 3,062) after walking out on an academic career that has equipped her for little but lording it over other people. Amos T ...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published July 23rd 2002 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2002)
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I cannot praise this book highly enough; the story is as fresh and witty as it is haunting and poignant. Haven Kimmel is an astonishingly gifted writer. The protagonists of this book are so real that they practically leap off the page. Langston Braverman is an elitist intellectual who escaped her small-town life for the world of academia, only to slink back home in disgrace after a bitter breakup with her professor boyfriend forces her out of the English department. Amos Townsend is a pastor (de ...more
Aug 25, 2007 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
After finishing this, I don't think I can live my life the same way I did before. I don't know just what's different, but it's meaningful. Everything I read today seems pallid and distant in comparison, remote from and indifferent to me. Haven Kimmel's characters are so true, and their feelings so vivid, that I might as well have that many new friends. I cried during and after this book, wept for the lacks in my life and the foolish (but really not) tenacity of my hope that those vacancies will ...more
May 13, 2014 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A fan of modern fiction and strong characters.
This SO should have been a 4 star book. I loved the characters, as implausible as they are. (Really, really long example: Main character Langston is named Langston. She theorizes that she hopes her parents didn't name her after Langston Hughes as it would be ridiculous considering she is a white woman. She also mentions she's never asked her parents. Are you kidding me? You spend your life as a girl/woman named Langston, something you've most likely always been asked about and never heard anyone ...more
Jun 09, 2008 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 17, 2007 Joyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: book groups
Having read this book in two book groups, I know that lots of folks will disagree with me, but I think it is a brilliant look at the Midwest. Author Haven Kimmel gets Indiana and the whole Midwestern mindset. There's a hilarious scene in the town diner where Langston, Kimmel's alter ego, explains to Amos the pastor, that Hoosiers practice "applied thinking." I know many find Langston hard to like - she is so mired in her own little intellectual world that she completely misses the major story in ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Tina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
while it became predictable as to what the outcome would be about 1/4 way through I still enjoyed this story. The annoying thing about the book was that once I was 1/2 finished I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that this was written to be made for Hollywood. Still - I like some of the characters especially the children and AnnaLee the mother. She was a great strong character on her own, who was devoted to her kids without losing herself.
Aug 23, 2008 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-changing
One of my all time favorite books EVER. By Haven Kimmel, an amazing author.
Apr 07, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freaking amazing. I have never read a novel before that so effortlessly combined philosophical ideas with everyday reality--plus it was heartbreaking in a GOOD way, if you know what I mean, and I hope you do. Plus, it's all about spirituality and faith in the face of human brokenness, and so few novels are respectful of religious belief. Also, Haven Kimmel can do anything with language, which makes me jealous. I have no idea if you would like this, but I loved it.

Reread in April 2016. I still th
Nov 09, 2007 Rowan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has beautiful language - some of the most painfully beautiful I've read - about faith and how to follow it. There were several passages that brought me to tears simply by the way words followed words. I was a bit disenchanted by the plot - it seemed to inch shyly along for the first three quarters of the book, and then tumble head over heels to a messy and dubiously believable ending. Absolutely worth reading for the language, though, and for the characterizations.
I read this book on a whim (just picked it up off my mother's bookshelf) and found it somewhat pretentious at first; it was as if the author was trying to prove her PhD dissertation in the manner of a novel. And, yet, I kept reading to find a very peculiar (if not reductive) story and somethings slightly redemptive and interesting. I don't recommend searching this novel out but if you happen upon it, it's not a bad read in under 300 pages.
Sep 27, 2008 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: which way did she go
For all the theological/philosophical dialog, you'd think that the plot would lumber, but it doesn't. There's something evocative and wistful about this book that examines the ways in which we change our lives and the way our lives inexorably change us.
Deirdre Keating
Oct 19, 2007 Deirdre Keating rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
DB gave me this one, and maybe I just read it at the wrong time, but I disliked the main character so much, that colored the whole book for me. She came off as so cold and disdainful, I just couldn't make the leap of faith.
Oct 12, 2007 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like philosphy, this author, a book group
I borrowed this book mainly because I so enjoyed Haven Kimmel's memoirs, A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up off the Couch. I detected echos of Kimmel's own life in this book as well, as she clearly writes about what she knows best: life in a small town in Indiana, religious philosophy, family relationships, etc. The main characters are intelligent, loving people faced with crises involving careers, church, personal/family/community relationships, belonging, guilt, and grief. It shows how people a ...more
Ashton Wheeler
Jul 06, 2007 Ashton Wheeler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
This is an EXCELLENT book about a woman who leaves her Ivy league graduate education to return to her small town in Indiana. It really is about the ability to accept the life you are living and releasing notions of what you thought life would be. I esepcially liked it because the author, Haven Kimmel (a Durham native), went to seminary and weaves religious theories and ideas intellectually throughout the story. Finally, the main character's relationship with her mother shows how people with trul ...more
Jun 26, 2008 Brooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! It's seldom that I'll have a lot of praise for a 250 page book that takes 150 pages to get into (mostly because I give up after 50 pages). That said, with the reader knowing this book is S-L-O-W going, this is such a good book. It's sad and terrible and completely worthwhile.
Amanda King
I LOVED Kimmel's memoirs, so I expected to go nuts for her fiction... but I just didn't really believe it. This book came off as being very English Major-y and the characters just weren't likable or interesting for me.
Aug 05, 2009 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midwest, religion
A miraculous book, but so heavy on theology, philosophy, literature, art, & the other liberal arts that it's a hard book to recommend to most casual readers. Nonetheless, I found it immensely satisfying & even laugh-out-loud funny in unlikely places. (One character recalls a lesson from a professor teaching Faustus who claims that Faust is sent to hell for being a bad reader!) The two main characters--alternating chapters are told from their viewpoints though not in their narrative voice ...more
This is a re-read for me, and I loved it just as much this time around. However, I remember when I read this book about 8 years ago that I identified very much with Langston, I really loved her. This time around, I felt much more intrigued by Amos and even a little irritated by Langston. I suppose this means that I'm no longer the semi-rebellious but mostly idealistic college student I was before.

The backgrounds of the characters in this book are fascinating; Kimmel excels at building character
This is my third book by Haven Kimmel. I grew up within a strong stone's throw of her hometown in Indiana and after I read her first two books (Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch), I mentally placed Kimmel in colloquial category of writers I like a lot, folksy, down home. Not Fannie Flagg down home, but headed in that direction. I underestimated Kimmel and after reading Solace, I began to dig a little deeper into Kimmel's background.

What I found was an intellectual depth that I greatly underesti
A solid 3.5 stars -- Ms. Kimmel paints small town Indiana in perfectly true colors. (And I know what I'm talking about -- my grandparents lived in an Indiana town so small that, if you were peering out the window on the second floor of their grand old house, you could see all the way to the edge of town in one direction, then walk down the hall and see all the way to the edge of town in the other direction!) However, she then peoples this town with a minister that never would have been accepted ...more
Dec 30, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe? There are still things I'm not quite sure I understand. It felt to me that once the protagonist's semi-sordid-sad past was revealed, she suddenly transformed into a tolerable human being. And perhaps that's what the author intended. It IS true, in fact, that understanding a person is often the key to loving them. Hmmm. There was also quite a lot of theology/literary theory with which I am pretty unfamiliar; this served to muddy the waters even more. I'm not certain that the final "win" of ...more
Jun 10, 2016 Alissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the book I was waiting to find out what happened to make Langston so cranky and prickly. It's definitely a story that take time to be told and it's told beautifully. I admit that there were times that I had no idea what the author was talking about, usually theological discussions. I just kept reading, (the equivalent of nodding and smiling during a conversation when you don't want to appear dumb) and didn't worry too much about what I didn't understand.
Quite unique! observant, thought provoking, funny, yet unafraid to examine the most drastic betrayals of faith, marriage, family and community bonds.

Reminds me of some of my favorites: Secondhand lions, Raintree County, In Cold Blood, Brad Herzog, Richard Powers, Ron Hansen all put in a blender w ice and rum - A CONCOCTION THAT GOES DOWN SWEET AND EASY DELIVERING A SMILE AND A GIGGLE OR TWO, THEN KICKS YOU ON YOUR ASS.
Apr 06, 2016 Beverly rated it liked it
I picked this book up during our "blind date with a book" week at the library. When I first started reading I was having a really difficult time getting into the book but it's hard for me to abandon anything and I'm glad I stuck with it. Once I hit just about the middle of the book, I just couldn't put it down even though there were a couple of things that I saw coming way before they were told to the reader. Langston Braverman has decided to quit pursuing her college education, walking out of h ...more
Jennifer Hughes
As a Mega Fan of Haven Kimmel's memoirs, I picked up this, her first novel, with anticipation. Within just a few pages I had an odd feeling, like when you run into an old friend years later and they just don't seem like the same person at all. As I read, I kept seeking for the old Haven in this new voice, and It was a little disconcerting to not find her. I'm not sure what I think of this "different" author since I liked the other one so well, but I have to admit that her ability to switch her v ...more
Mar 17, 2010 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't given a book five stars in quite a while, but this one really grabbed me. Part of it may be due to coincidence. I had been reading some Paul Tillich essays and, frankly, not getting a lot out of them. I put them aside to read The Solace of Leaving Early and much to my surprise Paul Tillich was mentioned on page eight (followed by many more references to theologians and philosophers). It is a rare novel that can combine religious philosophy, small town life, and memorable characters in ...more
Mar 28, 2008 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avon-book-club
Overall, I liked this book. It definitely had peaks and valleys as far as compelling reading. The character Langston drove me crazy in this book but I think the story resolved itself and I was able to really understand her motives in the end. I felt the author used Langston as a way to show readers how she could discuss philosophy and make herself appear more intelligent. I had a soft spot for the other main character because of his steadfastness even while not always believing in what he was do ...more
I erred on the side of generosity with 3-stars for this one as I found it quite uneven yet had its worthy bits.

In May 1998 Langston Braverman returns home to Haddington, Indiana after walking out on the oral exam for her PhD. She is in a fragile state and retreats to her parent's attic and refuses to engage with anyone, though has vague plans to write the Great American Novel. Even the news of the recent death of Alice, her childhood friend, fails to rouse her from her insular state.

Down the st
Sep 28, 2014 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah Steiner, Amy Fox
Shelves: favorites
I read this book in June early in my summer vacation. When I finished it, I started right back at the beginning and read it a second time, this time with pen in hand to underline my favorite parts. I adore this book.

And yet I am hesitant to recommend it to other readers. Somehow I feel like this book was written for a reader just like me. Did you grow up in small-town Indiana? Did you belong to an Anabaptist church? Do you struggle with faith, theology, brokenness? Do you know people who live th
Jeannie Turicik
Sep 13, 2010 Jeannie Turicik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I just finished "The Solace of Leaving Early" and it's pretty amazing. I read Haven Kimmel's book "A Girl Named Zippy", and really enjoyed it--very lighthearted and funny. This book is exactly the opposite--extremely complex characters that are well introduced and developed over the course of the story--but it is not lighthearted at all. It is a very deep story of famlies, and tragedies that scar the soul. Yet Haven did a remarkable job of letting us get to know Amos and Walt and Annalee, a ...more
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Haven Kimmel was born in New Castle, Indiana, and was raised in Mooreland, Indiana, the focus of her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana .

Kimmel earned her undergraduate degree in English and creative writing from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and a graduate degree from North Carolina State University, where she studied with novelist Lee Smith.
More about Haven Kimmel...

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“Possibility, infinity, beauty -- none of those words were right. [...] What he really wanted to say was: have you felt this? this phantom life streaking like a phosphorescent hound at the edges of your ruin? ” 26 likes
“...he said almost nothing, and ground his teeth against his desire to tell them the truth: God is helpless. We are at the mercy of our own radical freedom, and all God can do is take into God's self the grief, the violence, the sublime acts of kindness, the good sex. God comes to us from the future, and has only one godlike gift: the lure. We are lured toward truth, beauty, and goodness...the lure is pulling at our hearts like some lucid joy inside every actual occasion and all we have to do is...Say yes.” 10 likes
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