The Way the Family Got Away (Four Wall Eight Windows; 4th Estate, 2000) is the remarkable story of the journey seen through the eyes of the family's surviving children, a young boy and his younger sister, and of the ways loss makes itself felt through a child's imagination. On the journey, they try to make sense of their brother's death, why they must leave home, and how they get from one place to the next. Through their stories, they relate the miles they gain and the things they lose along the way. The Way the Family Got Away is a moving, unforgettable story.
The Way the Family Got Away is now available as an ebook.
"Kimball's first novel ... is moving and clever: the open road, so long a symbol of freedom and self-discovery in American fiction, is here rendered as denuded of promise, embodying desertion, desolation and rootlessness. ... Kimball's novel reads as parable about the death of the family, of how impossible family life is in a numbedly materialistic society. However, the largeness of the message should not detract from the intricacy of fine, precise storytelling ... he has taken it [American literature] somewhere very dark and unsettling."
"Occasionally a novel by a new writer
will cause critics to choke with excitement. This is one.
... Kimball resembles a skinhead at a cocktail party—no
quarter given to poxy commercialism. For that reason
alone, his achievement is admirable. He ignores the
media's liason with trends, fame, success, and trivia."
"Michael Kimball breathes life into
American experimental fiction in this moving debut
John Madera's great descriptive review
"Kimball does have an arresting talent"
"This searing odyssey is relayed to us
by the younger members of the family, who tell their
story in uncritical tones, their insistent voices hitting
the reader like soft hammers striking a sore place.
Kimball has much to say about life, suffering, and family
--The Good Book
"Written in the grand tradition of
--The List (Glasgow and Edinburgh)
"Michael Kimball's debut contains
audacious moments ... adding new dimensions to powerful
"An extraordinary novel"
"A touching tale which has moments of
rare perception and heart felt sympathy"
--South Wales Evening
"A bleak, powerful and extraordinary
"All of the loss of life is packed into
the cadence of a child's voice in Michael Kimball’s The
Way the Family Got Away. ... the real and transient
drives The Way along with its cadence, a beaded necklace
that breaks and scatters across America. In the end,
things are spread to the very corners of earth, where
angels hold up the edges. Kimball has created a short
novel with long echoes, an epitaph of economics."
"Set mostly in the back seat of a car
... you can feel the intense heat of the summer sun that
sears itself into your memory like a baby raging with
fever. The words and the subject matter are stifling, as
they force us to look at things we'd rather not see, and
occasionally make us want to flee from that back seat and
run away as fast as our legs with carry us. ... The
feelings inspired by Kimball's first novel are hard to
shake, like a continuous, terrifying, fever-induced
"Kimball is about a new hope that
exists in defiance of the lie that crawls through the
linear character of the written words, the left, right,
down, down toward the back cover. … You can't read if you
can't read this book."
The Way the Family Got
beyond story, pushing the realm of language and voice …
to transcend the ordinariness of storytelling."
--Dallas Morning News
"Kimball evinces an undeniable feel for
the cadences of children’s speech."
"The children describe in horrifyingly
innocent but graphic detail the baby's embalming and
eventual cremation, Momma's miscarriage, and the
disintegration of their family. ... By the time [the
family reaches] Bompa's house, everyone involved,
including the reader, is emotionally drained. Kimball
pulls off a remarkable feat: by filtering everything
through the children's eyes, the reader is kept off
balance, never sure what is real and what is a child's
interpretation of unfamiliar and frightening events. A
difficult, but compelling novel."
"Relentless in its misery ...
illustrating the children's attempts to cope with and
make some meaning of their massive loss and complete
"Kimball should be commended"
"You'll come away thinking you’ve
shared time with someone who’ll be on shelves for many
years to come."
--RTÉ (Irish Public Broadcasting)