cover image The Used World

The Used World

Haven Kimmel, . . Free Press, $25 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-4778-8

Kimmel (Something Rising (Light and Swift) ; A Girl Named Zippy ) returns to rural Indiana in her expansive third novel. Hazel Hunnicut is the proprietor of Hazel Hunnicut's Used World Emporium, “the station at the end of the line” for myriad antiques and junk in Jonah, Ind. With her passel of cats and distaste for convention, Hazel is eccentric but grudgingly beloved by her two employees: Claudia, a tall and lonely woman ostracized for her androgynous appearance, and Rebekah, who is still recovering from an oppressive Pentecostal upbringing. With a nudge from Hazel and the appearance of an abandoned infant (whose junkie mother, a friend of Hazel's junkie sister, is dead), the two women form a relationship, providing momentum as an unlikely family takes shape and hidden connections between the characters are revealed. The story has many satisfying layers, but melding them requires Kimmel to jump around in time, sometimes to confusing results (among the pasts visited are Rebekah's childhood; Hazel's upbringing and the backstory on her relationship with the locals; and dreamlike visions of a long-ago romance between a black groundskeeper and a white judge's daughter). It's an intriguing puzzle box of a novel with a few edges left unsanded. (Sept.)