Penelope v2A hauntingly beautiful memoir of humor, grace, gratitude, and failed rescues Killing Penelope is a true story about a girl’s devotion to her mother, Penelope, a wild and eccentric woman who never intended to have a child, and to her father, Gardiner, a Harvard-educated physician whom the child depended upon to be the steady, stable parent.

Penelope did not wear dresses and heels like other mothers of the 1960s. She wore Levi’s and men’s shirts, and she held a shotgun with more comfort than she held her baby girl. Penelope loved Gardiner but not enough to give up her Swiss lover, Helene. Kimball was eight when Penelope developed a life-threatening illness, which left her emaciated, drug-addicted, and mentally unstable. When Gardiner abruptly left the family, Penelope gathered her strength and told Kimball they were going to start a new life.

Kimball was twelve when they packed up the Porsche, dogs, parakeets, and bags of narcotics, and left the only home she had ever known. Kimball’s early teen years were frightening and unpredictable as she desperately tried to save Penelope, who succumbed to addiction, depression, and recurring bouts of illness.

In this memoir by Kimball Converse Pier, the author gives a beautiful portrayal of her experience of retrieving humor, grace, and gratitude from the rubble of despair and loss.


“Kimball Converse Pier’s mother, for the latter part of her life, moved in her own world of drugs and illnesses. But she was also, always, beautiful and privileged. She believed in enjoying life to the fullest, never for any reason sacrificing a moment of her own pleasure, no matter the cost to others. As a consequence, she needed a lot of forgiveness, and in this remarkable, loving, wise memoir, Kimball provides a measure of that forgiveness.”

– Louis B. Jones, author, reviewer for New York Times Book Review, and Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fiction Director