Lacombe author Fran Kimmel took five years to release her second novel, No Good Asking — and not just because her debut book was a hard act to follow.
Yes, Shore Girl was named a Top-40 Book by the CBC, and also won the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award in 2013, but Kimmel insists her long time-lag between books just comes down to being “a slow writer.”
Although her debut novel took place over a 21-year period, all the action in No Good Asking happens over a brief seven-day period over Christmas.
Kimmel’s new story centres on her favourite kind of protagonist — a child, who’s trying to survive in a world that’s largely out of her control.
“Oliver Twist was one of my favourites when I was growing up… If there was somebody vulnerable or weak, I always wanted them to succeed,” she said.
The underdog in No Good Asking is Hannah. The pre-teen is continuing to live with her mother’s boyfriend, even though her mom has passed away. But things aren’t going so well in the large house across the street from the Nyland family.
At first Eric Nyland, the family patriarch, doesn’t even realize Hannah is a neighbour — until he sees her huddled form walking in the snow, looking for her missing cat.
Kimmel writes: “She looked 12, 13 at most. Her coat was a grubby grey felt, too small, thrift-shop variety, the kind that let the cold howl through the gaps between buttons. Her jeans were dirty and frayed at the bottom. She wore runners, no boots.”
Eric and his wife Ellie gradually conclude Hannah shouldn’t go back to the place where she had been living. Yet, social service workers can’t place her in a foster home until after Christmas.
Although the Nylands are busy raising their own two sons, as well as looking after an aging parent, they reluctantly decide Hannah can stay with them over the holidays.
Kimmel describes what happens next as a “blessing.” Her publisher, ECW Press from Toronto, describes it like this: “Hannah proves to be more balm than burden, and the Nylands discover that the only thing harder than taking Hannah in may be letting her go.”
Having worked early in her career at a boys’ and girls’ club, Kimmel knows there are many troubled children who never get enough love in their formative years. She wrote No Good Asking on the assumption that Hannah received a strong start in life before her mother died, and therefore “has a tremendous capacity to love.”
She hopes readers will be uplifted by the story, even though it deals with some tough subject matter. Kimmel said, “It’s about hope and resilience… and about how small kindnesses can make a difference…”
No Good Asking will be released Oct. 2 through Amazon, Chapters and Coles. Some copies are already available at Sunworks in Red Deer.
Kimmel will attend a free public event at the Red Deer Public Library at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 26. Those interested in attending her author’s talk must call the library to pre-register.