The Solace of Leaving Early
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The Solace of Leaving Early

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  2,291 ratings  ·  376 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
ebook, 240 pages
Published July 23rd 2002 by Anchor (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
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
Oct 17, 2007 Joyce rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
One of my all time favorite books EVER. By Haven Kimmel, an amazing author.
May 13, 2014 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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Oct 12, 2007 Miriam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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.
Sep 27, 2008 Deborah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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...more
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.
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
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
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...more
Aug 14, 2011 Deb rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah Steiner, Amy Fox
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...more
Jeannie Turicik
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
So much is going on at the start of this book.
There is a crisis of faith a preacher Amos who wants his esoteric theology to be understood. He marries a young couple the girl is pregnant he knows this is a huge mistake for both of them.In his mind he is thinking Will you still love him when he stands in the way of your hearts deepest desire? Will you love him when the fact of him absolutely ruins your joy?
There is death and 2 little girls lives are destroyed by it.
There are small town people wit...more
This book was so good it made my head explode. This was, perhaps, one of the most fascinating and insightful books I’ve read in a long time. All at once, it is a love story, a philosophical discussion on life, faith, and religion, a commentary on family and small-town life, and somehow it works to create this amazing, AMAZING book that is lovely and thought-provoking. This book is full of contrasts, small-town versus city life, science versus faith, despair and hope, characters who, as the story...more
This was not what I expected on many levels, which is why it took me so dad-blastedly long to finish it. I wanted a story; this was an amazing, moving story with a heavy dose of theology, existential philosophy and academia. Especially at the beginning. But when the plot began to unfold and when the characters started to become fully fleshed out people who made me care about them, I had a much easier time getting through the Kierkegaard and poetry criticism. Langston was so irritating at first,...more
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
Not a bad story, but full of theological and philosophical treatises that took away the ease of reading. Interesting questions posed, but none that are not answered by the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amos Townsend is a preacher in a small town and is confronted by the most horrific tragedy in his congregation. As he struggles to make sense and to make better, he meets Langston Braverman, a failed phd student home recuperating after a nervous breakdown. Amos and Langston find themselves at odds...more
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.
Susan Moss
The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel (finished 6/7/14): I have absolutely no clue as to how this came to be in my possession, but I am oh so glad it made its way there. This book made my heart ache (in the best possible way) from cover to cover. The writing in this debut novel is lush, honest and brutiful (a mix of brutal and beautiful), as Glennon from Momastery would say. The blurb describes it as a "haunting meditation on grief and faith". It is that, and so much more. Every character...more
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.
Andrea R
Absolutely fantastic; please see my review on my blog:
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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
More about Haven Kimmel...
A Girl Named Zippy She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana The Used World Something Rising Iodine

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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? ” 18 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.” 8 likes
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