Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

An Illustrated Novel

By Robert Gipe

Finalist, 2019 Weatherford Award in Fiction · Winner of the 2021 Judy Gaines Young Book Award from Transylvania University (for all three Canard County books)

“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.” News-Sentinel

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

“The dialogue, with its distinct Appalachian dialect, charges Gipe’s illustrated story of a tight-knit community in coal country, in which people struggle to make ends meet, raise families, maintain friendships, and survive the opioid epidemic. The many cartoons add emotional complexity to the evocative language and terrific character development.”


A finalist for the 2019 Weatherford Award in Fiction, Weedeater  is a contemporary story of love and loss told by a pair of eastern Kentucky mountaineers: Gene, the lovelorn landscaper who bears witness to the misadventures of a family entangled in drugs, artmaking, and politics, a family beset by both environmental and self-destruction; and Dawn Jewell, a young mother  searching—for lost family members, lost youth, lost community, and lost heart.

Picking up six years after the end of Robert Gipe’s acclaimed first novel, Trampoline, 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 Gipe chronicles are frantic. They are told through a voice by turns taciturn and angry, yet also balanced with humor and stoic grace. 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.

Robert Gipe lives and works in Harlan County, Kentucky. Pop is his third Ohio University Press novel. His first, Trampoline, won the 2016 Weatherford Award for Appalachian novel of the year. His second novel, Weedeater, was a Weatherford finalist. For the past thirty years he has worked in arts-based organizing and is the founding coproducer of the Higher Ground community performance series. He has contributed to numerous journals and anthologies, is a playwright, and is currently a script consultant on a forthcoming television show based on Beth Macy’s Dopesick. Author photo by Amelia Kirby.   More info →


Excerpt: Chapter 1, “Dreadful Crash”


Review in Appalachian Journal


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Retail price: $18.95, T.
Release date: February 2020
159 illus. · 256 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Retail price: $27.95, T.
Release date: February 2020
159 illus. · 256 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: February 2020
159 illus. · 256 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Weedeater

“(A) complicated, beautiful, heartbreaking, and hilarious story…. Gipe manages to craft characters who look around and see drug addiction and extractive industries and dysfunction—and who are funny and fierce and reflective.”

Appalachian Journal

“Nobody has captured the raw realities of life deep in the Appalachian Mountains as faithfully as this author, known to friends simply as Gipe. Whether it is dialogue, plot, or setting, Gipe has it just right—unflinching and not worried about romanticizing or stereotyping, just telling it like it really is.”

George Brosi, Appalachian Mountain Books

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

“Dawn Jewell is still in the soup and not a one of us will ever outrun Canard County. For that I am grateful. Listen to this book. It sings the truth of a place where everything bends, where the stories of the people explode like giant dandelions. This book is alive. Nobody writes like Robert Gipe.”

Glenn Taylor, author of A Hanging at Cinder Bottom

“Dawn Jewell is back and so is Robert Gipe. Weedeater is a pitch-perfect look at our beloved Appalachia, at once an amalgam of masterful writing and characters that are funny and smart and fully human. Such a powerful book.”

Crystal Wilkinson, author of The Birds of Opulence

“No other work in this century shifted the literary landscape of Appalachia like the publication of Robert Gipe’s novel Trampoline. Now comes its sequel—just as searing, relentless, and gripping. With his cast of misfits, Gipe is redefining and reimagining the American social novel. His language is lightning on the page.”

Erik Reece, author of Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness

“With Canard County and its cast of unforgettable characters, Robert Gipe has created his own little postage stamp of Appalachia—a place broken by addiction and the coal industry, but also bursting with beauty and kindness and resistance. Weedeater is both hilarious—Gipe writes dialogue like nobody else—and heartbreaking. Ultimately, this is a novel about love and forgiveness. If we’re lucky, Dawn Jewell just might rescue all of us.”

Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour

Praise for Trampoline:
“I fear this book. I’m in love with this book. I’m laughing out loud at this book. I am knocked to my knees in grief by this book. Trampoline is one of the most powerful works of contemporary fiction I’ve read in years.”

Ann Pancake, author of Strange as this Weather Has Been and Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley

Praise for Trampoline:
“[A Confederacy of Dunces] may have been the last time a university press introduced a major American voice—the last time, that is, until now…. Trampoline is a new American masterpiece.”

Praise for Trampoline:
“Trampoline is that rare kind of book, a first novel that feels like a fourth or fifth.… It is a roaring tale that knows when to tamp its own fire—which is another way of saying that it is funny as hell but will hurt you too.”

Electric Literature

Praise for Trampoline:
“Gipe’s powerful sense of place will seep into teen readers’ lives. This is a killer debut of one teenager’s flight from destruction—strong stuff tempered with humor and love.”

School Library Journal

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