Pipette is the debut novel of Kim Chinquee, a master of flash fiction and short prose, telling in her own spare, dramatic style the story of a woman in a faulty relationship and her struggles to maintain equilibrium with her dogs, her career, her desire to help out in the medical field during COVID.
Written in short (page-long or less, usually) chapters of unflowered yet dramatic prose, Pipette starts with a woman on a train returning from the ballet to her dogs, her partner. Trouble at home escalates. The country is on edge. She tries to escape a threatening situation. Then comes a pandemic; our protagonist hangs out with her dogs, manages remote teaching. With leitmotifs of skiing, dogs, trains, waterways, birds, nature, spiritual guides, triathlons, she writes, she teaches, she swims/bikes/runs. The novel dips into her past—trauma, relationships, activities, working in the lab—which pendulums, then finally propels forward.
Kim Chinquee grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and was a medical technician in the Air Force and elsewhere. She's the author of seven collections, is Chief Editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal), Associate Editor of Midwest Review, Senior Editor of New World Writing, and Associate Professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State. Her work is widely published and has received three Pushcart Prizes and a Henfield Prize. She's a triathlete and lives with her three dogs in Buffalo, NY. Pipette is her first published novel.
"Chinquee's novella is a bold exercise in form--urgent and experimental yet easy to understand and eminently enjoyable. There is a simplicity to her prose, much of it is pared back and precise. It takes some skill to write so sparingly and requires a self-confidence born from experience and commitment to the craft of writing. Chinquee is a clever writer who is always in control of her material. It's no surprise that her previous work has been nominated for numerous prizes and published in a variety of well-respected literary journals.IR Verdict: Kim Chinquee's Pipette is an inventive and intelligent novella with writing so spare and carefully considered that not a word is wasted. A gem of a book." - IndieReader Staff
"At turns unsettling and inspirational, Pipette tracks the lengths one woman must go to keep herself healthy, sane, and safe. When the narrator moves out of her boyfriend's home because of threatening behavior, she must grapple with not only rebuilding a home for herself. As the COVID-19 pandemic advances, the narrator, a writer and English professor, takes a temporary job as a lab technician analyzing test results, finding satisfaction and even pleasure in the precision of her pipetting skills. A tool used to transfer measured liquids safely and accurately, the pipette might also serve as metaphor for how the narrator calibrates her daily activities, parceling the day into writing, self-care, and grueling exercise routines, ever pushing the limits of her body. The pipette is also an apt metaphor for Chinquee's prose—sharp, precise chapters, each with the compression and satisfaction of flash fiction. A moving novel of crystalline structure." - Eva Heisler
"Pipette is Kim Chinquee's novel of a fifty-something single woman navigating the life challenges of relationships, career and family history in the age of COVID.Chinquee, a rock star in the flash fiction world, has published several award-winning collections of flash fiction. The chapters in this novel are flash-like in length and they propel the reader through the story, like scrolling through a Tik Tok feed. It's hard to put down.Her prose is spare and clean and the narrative voice is dispassionate, which only makes the story more dramatic, more powerful, more heartbreaking, and ultimately more uplifting. It is the story of a woman who does not let her fears control her life. It is a story of courage and triumph. Highly recommended." - Len Joy
"What makes a life and gives it meaning? In Pipette, Kim Chinquee explores this question through a hypnotic examination of daily rituals: how we care for the body, the self, and others; our behaviors as friends, lovers, and consumers. Like a lid of ice over a lake, these everyday acts support us through triumph and tragedy. But when the Covid pandemic shatters the world and its surfaces, Chinquee shows the reader in deft and compelling language that sometimes diving far into the depths is the only path to survival." - Emma Bolden
"This extraordinary novel tells the story of a woman's ordinary days, lived under the twin shadows of war and the Covid-19 pandemic. In elegantly compressed prose, each short chapter opens a window onto an event or encounter. Sometimes we barely glimpse these moments, seen as if from a passing train. The narrator meditates on time passing, on life and death and meaning, all while focused on the details of each day. Here she is, massaging kale for salad. Here she is, missing her puppy during a workout. Here she is, in bed with a man who kisses her softly, then leaves the next day. Here she is, buying scrubs for a job at a Covid testing center, which brings back memories of time in the military, of faraway family, of the sickness that hovers everywhere at once. What a gorgeous book, full of believable and urgent details that capture this moment with wisdom and precision. Understated and generous, a delight to read." - Carol Guess