David's Reviews > She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana

She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
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's review
Dec 21, 2010

did not like it

I finished it, albeit with some skimming, so it can't have been too bad, but overall less enjoyable than I expected from the premise/title and blurbs. Her mom's going back to college, becoming active, and losing a ton of weight is actually a minor focus. There are many other vignettes from her growing up in Indiana, some poignant (chapters on her estranged brother and distant father), some kind of cute, but most fairly boring and generically unfunny (to me).

I tried to analyze a little more why I wasn't finding the author funny or especially engaging, rather than just leave it at the obvious point that it's a matter of taste. Came up with this taxonomy:

1. Strangely worded, verbose, hyperbolic passages

Example: (p. 6) "All my life there had been certain constants, facts so steady I assumed they were like trees or mountains, things you could trust to stay where you left them because they were [ital] mountains [ital] and yes the Bible says faith can move one but the Bible also says a whole lot of stuff that if you tried to make it true you'd end up in the Epileptic Village."

Analysis: (A) Word choice is not crisp -- (a) I don't think of trees or mountains as things I "left" in place but rather as things that stay in place. (b) If you wanted to set up "faith can move one" you should stick with just mountains and not throw in "trees" as well. (c) the repetition of, and emphasis on, "mountains" adds nothing but length to the sentence; (d) there are things in the Bible that are hard to believe, but the issue is not one of anyone's trying to "make" them true

(B) ends with a thud -- trying to do something impossible might make you exhausted, or might conceivably make you crazy, but what does epilepsy have to do with it? Very poor punch line choice. Where's the editor?

2. non-evocative images

Example: (p. 60, commenting on a photo of herself) "My hair looks like it had been purchased at a rummage sale after all the real hair was gone"

Analysis: This is close to being funny -- the concise contrast with "real hair" has potential. But what did it look like? This conjures up no specific visual image for me because rummage sales don't contain hair. Need to dig into the stock of images reader could actually envision -- hair after you've worn a hat, or slept on it funny, or gotten an overly severe haircut, or better still something i'm not thinking of because I'm not a creative writer, but at least something I could picture once you label it.

3. Stuff that reads as though it were dictated, with no further editing undertaken.

Example (p. 278, describing the small town in which her mother got a teaching job, straddling the Indiana/Ohio border) "It was either a single town cut in two, or two different towns with the same name that happened to be connected to each other, or. There was probably another way to think about it but I didn't know what that was."

Suggested Edit: It's not that funny anyway, but at least move on after "each other" and delete final sentence.

Example (p. 282, re seeing her Dad on duty as a cop at a basketball game): "who would have ever predicted something as horrible as this: one night at a Blue River home basketball game, a [ital] sacred occasion [ital] the details of which I could describe in a novel of a thousand pages and which would take my whole adult life to write, I looked up from where I was sitting with Julie and whom did I see but my father, in uniform"

Suggested edit: drop "who would have ever predicted...." -- given your dad is a cop and it's a small town, it's not amazing you would run into him on duty sometimes. "sacred occasion" is nice -- concisely evokes the importance of basketball in Indiana -- but then get rid of one, or preferably both of the following phrases about how long a description you COULD have inflicted.

Sorry if this review itself has now gone on too long, but for some reason I was moved to go beyond my initial knee-jerk "Erma Bombeck style. Not funny to me. If you like it, have fun" reaction to try to figure out what in particular was off-putting.


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