A coming-of-age story of hope, betrayal, and familial legacy set in rural Appalachia.
Set in the run-up and aftermath of the 2016 election, Pop brings the Canard County trilogy to a close as Dawn, the young narrator of Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, is now the mother of the fifteen-year-old Nicolette. Whereas Dawn has become increasingly agoraphobic as the Internet persuades her the world is descending into chaos, Nicolette narrates an Appalachia where young people start businesses rooted in local food culture and work to build community. But Nicolette’s precocious rise in the regional culinary scene is interrupted when her policeman cousin violently assaults her, setting in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy the family—and Canard County in the process.
In the tradition of Gipe’s first two novels, Pop’s Appalachia is full of clear-eyed, caring, creative, and complicated people struggling to hang on to what is best about their world and reject what is not. Their adventures reflect an Appalachia that is overrun by outside commentators looking for stories to tell about the region—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but almost always oversimplified.
Dawn Jewell is fifteen. She is restless, curious, and wry. She listens to Black Flag, speaks her mind, and joins her grandmother’s fight against mountaintop removal mining almost in spite of herself. “I write by ear,” says Robert Gipe, and Dawn’s voice is the essence of his debut novel, Trampoline. She lives in eastern Kentucky with her addict mother and her Mamaw, whose stance against the coal companies has earned her the community’s ire. Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a powerful portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings, it is above all about its heroine, Dawn, as she decides whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or ruled by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life.
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.