Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You

Fred Chappell, Author
Fred Chappell, Author Picador USA $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14600-9
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-7462-9
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4668-6048-3
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Graceful as always, Chappell uses a death vigil here to illuminate the variety of life and the rich modalities of the soul. As the matriarch of a strong Appalachian family lies on her deathbed, her young grandson, Jess Kirkman, receives a rich legacy of oral history that will shape his future as a poet and storyteller. Told in a curiously homely yet poetic idiom, Chappell's seventh novel (following Brighten the Corner Where You Are), composed of tenuously joined tales, is a series of distinctly voiced vignettes. These stories reach Jess in a creaky old house where he sits with his father in a room full of broken clocks while his mother sits in the bedroom with her dying mother. As the women deal directly with approaching death, Jess and his father tap into the sagas of other lives. By turns funny, brooding, romantic and heroic, the tales--bearing chapter headings such as ""The Shooting Woman,"" ""The Fisherwoman"" and ""The Feistiest Woman""--cohere into a body of women's wisdom that will enable Jess to be a man. The darkly surreal centerpiece, ""The Wind Woman,"" subtly marks a metaphorical epiphany. In it, Jess recalls (or dreams of) a trip with his mother during which she muses about her long-abandoned maidenly ambition to become a poet; she takes him to visit an empty cabin on a windswept mountaintop, where he is inspired to ""...consort the sounds of the hollers and slopes and valleys below into music."" A genuine patience distinguishes Chappell from the vast herd of writers--especially Southern writers--who mistake languid melancholy for lyricism. He writes with a feel for emotional timing that is as acute as his sense of style. First serial rights to Quarterly West and Five Points; author tour. (Sept.)
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