Robert Gipe’s novels are unique. Every few pages are graced with one or two of his line drawings with captions that illustrate what is happening. His first, Trampoline, exploded onto the regional literary scene in 2015 and caused ripples throughout the country. It was widely viewed as an authentic window into contemporary Appalachian life. Dawn Jewell, its fifteen-year-old protagonist, moved anxiously between the home of her addict mother and her mamaw, an anti-strip-mining activist deep in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields. Weedeater picks up the story of Dawn Jewell six years later. Now she is a young mother feeling life’s turmoil with a new kind of urgency. “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. “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. “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. “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. It’s only about 60 miles from Kingsport, Tennessee, where Robert Gipe grew up to Harlan, Kentucky, where he now lives and teaches at a nearby community college. But the difference between a small industrial city and a coal town are considerable, especially now that coal is in decline. Gipe, as he is called more often than Robert, is a tall, slender man who stands above the crowd physically. Now his unique combination of whimsical art and entrancing writing has lifted his literary reputation even higher.
Athens: Ohio University Press, 2018. 242 pages featuring drawings by the author. Hardback in dust jacket