By Robert Gipe
“Robert Gipe is the real deal: a genuine storyteller, a writer of wit and style, wisdom and heart. His characters are as alive as anybody I know, and his sentences jump off the page. I find myself reading them out loud to whoever’s handy and saying, ‘This is how it’s done.’”
Jennifer Haigh, author of Heat and Light
“When [Gipe’s] prose is coupled with his cartoon-like drawings in which the characters tend to stare directly at the reader, the effect is similar to watching a documentary film. … This strategy imbues his work with a kind of realism that is not quite traditional fiction and not quite a graphic novel but engrossing nonetheless. His characters come cross as absolutely real, simultaneously funny and heartbreaking.”
“Weedeater is about how to go on when your heart is broken. With a style worthy of Ray Hicks, author Robert Gipe makes his characters Dawn and Gene stare straight at you and tell what they have to tell. It is impossible to turn away from them. Their compelling tale of current Appalachia, told through true and vital language and with great compassion, is necessary reading for everyone.”
Carrie Mullins, author of Night Garden
“Weedeater had me by the heart and the gut. It is big, bad, throaty, loving storytelling of giant proportions and devastating quickness. It’s an incredible book, and it’s made me a Robert Gipe fan for life. Read this.”
Kayla Rae Whitaker, author of The Animators
Weedeater is a contemporary story of love and loss told by a pair of eastern Kentucky mountaineers. Gene is a lovelorn lawnman who bears witness to the misadventures of a family entangled in drugs, artmaking, and politics, a family beset by environmental and self-destruction. And a young mother, Dawn Jewell, is at the center of the family. She spends the pages of Weedeater searching—for lost family members, lost youth, lost community, and lost heart. Weedeater is a story about how we put our lives back together when we lose the things we thought we couldn’t bear losing, how we find new purpose in what we thought were scraps and trash caught in the weeds.
Weedeater picks up six years after the end of Robert Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, and continues the story of the people of Canard County, Kentucky. In Weedeater, the reader finds Canard County living through the last hurrah of the coal industry and the most turbulent and deadly phase of the community’s battle with opioid abuse. The events it chronicles are frantic, but its voice is by turns taciturn and angry, filled with humor and stoic grace.
Robert Gipe lives in Harlan, Kentucky, and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. His fiction has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Still, Motif, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. More info →
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When Dawn Jewell—fifteen, restless, curious, and wry—joins her grandmother’s fight against mountaintop removal mining in spite of herself, she has to decide whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings Trampoline is a powerful portrait of a place.
In essays that take wide-ranging forms—ideal for creative nonfiction classes—established and emerging writers with roots in Appalachia take on the theme of silencing in Appalachian culture. They write about families left behind, hard-earned educations, selves transformed, identities chosen, and risks taken.
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