2018 release, Ohio University Press
Finalist, 2018 Weatherford Award in Fiction.
“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
“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 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
“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
“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
“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
"Gipe's writing style has matured and taken on more complexity. Where there is no shortage of heartbreaking passages in Trampoline, in Weedeater, the writing is even clearer and closer to the heart....Reading Weedeater is not like reading a story, nor is it like reading a comic or graphic novel. It is something else entirely, challenging our expectations for metaphor and Appalachian representation, constantly forcing us to re-see, to re-think a moment, a scene, a feeling."
Leah Hampton, for Appalachian Heritage
"[Weedeater's] characters come across as absolutely real, simultaneously funny and heartbreaking."
Knoxville News Sentinel/Chapter16.org
"The power of Weedeater is in Robert Gipe’s ability to listen, collect, and create small moments and phrases and scenes. It feels like you’ve been scooped up and plopped down in the middle of a world that has all the constraints and all the structures that hold up any other world.” –Meredith McCarroll, for Appalachian Journal.
"I enjoyed Weedeater for the laugh-until-you-cry nature of Gipe’s dialogue, the illustrations that punctuate the narrators’ commentary, and the rollicking movement of the plot line. Beyond these valid reasons for reading Gipe’s work, I am most struck by the philosophical musings of his characters, how their contemplations of the universe stand up to Hamlet’s famous comments to Horatio when they say things like, “He used to tell me everything bends. There aint nothing fixed.’”
Roberta Schultz, WVXU, Cincinnati
"With Trampoline and Weedeater, Gipe delivers some of the most vivid Appalachian characters we’ve ever read. There are no clichés or stereotypes here. Illustrations of Dawn and Gene deliver clever one-liners and elevate the narration to a face-to-face relationship with the reader."
2021 release, Ohio University Press
"A headlong tumble into a proud and problem-plagued Appalachia, this addictive novel is a delightful gabfest. Set in 2016 in eastern Kentucky’s imaginary Canard County, it follows an ambitious but oft-derailed family’s misadventures. Middle-aged Dawn is drowning in agoraphobic Internet-frazzled depression, her foodie teenage daughter Nicolette deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault while planning to start an artisanal soda company, and uncle Hubert is trying to make money off a local movie shoot. Each narrates in voices laced with hard-bitten realism and delightful colloquialisms, channeling the feral lyricism of Barry Hannah as Gipe cruises through the episodic and ragtag plot. The scribbled-looking spot illustrations feature characters as reedy figures with flyaway hair and no-nonsense expressions, bringing them down to earth with delicious irony. Comedy and tragedy make way for unexpected uplift in this richly detailed story of people determined not to be forgotten. --Publishers Weekly
"There is a tangible, contagious compassion at work in the Canard County stories, as well as high humor and wonder and sorrow at the world." --Bloom
"Pop is sad, stupid funny, and savagely honest. Gipe’s prose rushes by in a whirl of strangeness, of characters and dialogue, jokes and heartbreaks, ghosts and wildfires, sinkholes and giants telling Jack Tales, plus a couple of movie stars. It leaves the reader with a feeling that it’s time to “set out” – whether that means taking on a corporate polluter, starting a new artisanal pop business, or just telling your own story in your own words to someone who will listen." --Graham Marema, The Daily Yonder.
“Haints and heroes dominate Robert Gipe’s Pop, the last installment of a trilogy that takes everything you thought you knew about Appalachia and turns it on its sunburned ear. It’s a satisfying ending to a tribute of misunderstood people in a place where beauty is both tremendous and tattered as a dog-pawed quilt. Gipe’s stories and drawings crackle with a full-throated reverence that is stereotype bending, unsentimental, and utterly original. When the crotch-grabbers get their due, you will laugh, cheer, and shake your head.” --Beth Macy, author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America
"Gipe tells their compelling stories both with a keen ear for the little nuances that shape unique characters and his ability to create distinct voices. In this, Gipe is aided by his own James Thurber-like blend of words and images, as the story is accompanied by the author’s cartoon depictions of its main characters, who often break the fourth wall and seem to directly address the reader. Unsentimental but emotive, both whimsical and realistic, Pop is a powerful brew. --Gonzalo Baeza, The WV Independent Observer.
“Robert Gipe adopts us into a family of characters so endearing, we can’t help but wade with them into the mess of life. A sensitively folded narrative, Pop is layered with the whimsy of Jacktales and a reckoning of the human spirit’s quest to upend society’s injustices. As always, Gipe’s voice is honest, true, and unflinching.” --Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, author of Even As We Breathe
“Robert Gipe is Appalachia’s Willy Wonka. Pop is your golden ticket. It will crack your smile, break your heart, and rouse your soul all in the space of a page.” --Wesley Browne, author of Hillbilly Hustle
“Robert Gipe is the writer’s writer of Appalachia, our soothsayer and sage. His work has busted our storytelling wide open, and his legacy will be a long one. In Pop, the Canard County saga draws to a perfect close with all the trademarks we have come to expect of its author: gut-punch dialogue, beautiful prose, unique illustrations, and a hard reckoning with ourselves and our neighbors. Only Gipe can show us our wounds like this, and he teaches us once again how beautiful, wacky, and tender we are. I am sad to say goodbye to this trilogy. Thank you, Dawn. Thank you, everyone in Canard County. And thank you, Robert, for every brilliant word.” --Leah Hampton, author of F*ckface
“Readers inside and outside Appalachia will be captivated by the folks of Canard County, but for anyone from Appalachia, reading Pop is like coming home. Gipe is a master storyteller who will make you laugh and cry, usually at the same time. His characters are folks you know, folks you fear, and folks you love. Punctuated by his extraordinary illustrations, the story of Dawn Jewell, her daughter Nicolette, and their kin is a celebration of love, family, and forgiveness. This is a book that left me wrung out and full at the same time, and that I can’t wait to put in the hands of my students.” --Jessica Salfia, author of 55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers' Strike and president of the West Virginia Council of Teachers of English
2015 release, Ohio University Press
Winner of the 2015 Weatherford Award in Fiction
"If anyone’s life is a loaded gun, pointed right at the heart of the American literary canon, it is Dawn Jewell’s. Dawn’s f-bomb dropping, liquor swilling, car wrecking quest to save her mountain, redeem her mother, and get her dead daddy back has shot her smack into the starry field of the classics."
Amy Tipton Cortner, Appalachian Journal
“A story that left my heart at once warmed and shattered, Trampoline rides the razor’s edge of raw beauty. This is Appalachia illuminated with a light uniquely its own. I dare say Robert Gipe has invented his own genre.”
David Joy, author of Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of the World
"[Dawn Jewell's] story is gripping, heart-breaking, and raw, and Gipe’s prose and illustrations show us this story though a powerful young voice—a character unafraid to be different, to be brave, to be strong. So often in Appalachia our young people hear a single story about who they are. Dawn rejects this. Much like the mountain landscape around her, she is powerful, wild, and authentic."
Jessica Maunz Salfia, for the West Virginia Council of Teachers of English.
“Fascinating, honest, and sometimes darkly comic…The consciousness of the mountain itself and the animals on it become the quiet heart of this loud and heartbreaking book.”
“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. One of the most powerful works of contemporary fiction I’ve read in years. I’ll never forget Dawn Jewell. I’ll never escape Canard County.”
Ann Pancake, author of Strange as this Weather Has Been and Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley
“Dawn Jewell is one of the most memorable and endearing narrators I have ever read. She's like a combination of Scout Finch, Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, and True Grit's Mattie Ross, but even more she is completely her own person, the creation of Robert Gipe, an author who has given us a novel that provides everything we need in great fiction: a sense of place that drips with kudzu and coal dust; complex characters who rise up off the page as living, breathing people we will not soon forget; and a rollicking story that is by turns hilarious, profound, deeply moving, and always lyrically beautiful. I think Trampoline is one of the most important novels to come out of Appalachia in a long while and announces an important new voice in our literature. I loved every single bit of this book.”
Silas House, author of Clay's Quilt and Eli the Good
“Trampoline is a moving account of working-class Kentucky mountain people who live in an environment dominated by mountaintop removal coal mining. Trampoline is also the most innovative American fiction to appear in years. The story, the characters and the writing style are startlingly new, as in: original. Trampoline adds a fresh consciousness to the enduring conversation about the Appalachian region. Pathos and humor are present in about equal measure.”
Gurney Norman, author of Divine Right's Trip and Kinfolks
“I believe it takes a special genius to create a story that is hilarious and poignant and eloquent all at the same time, and Robert Gipe has done just that in his amazing debut Trampoline. Gipe’s is a voice like no other and I guarantee you’ll fall in love just like I did.”
Pam Duncan, author of The Big Beautiful and Moon Women
“Robert Gipe has the most original voice to emerge on the literary landscape since Lewis Nordan. Dawn Jewell is a delicious heroine, whether she’s shouldering her way through a community conflict or a family scrimmage. Geographically anchored, yet universally relevant, Trampoline is funny, serious, dark, radiant, and amazingly honest, filled with rich characters and a culture wracked with contradiction and heartbreak, but also strength and resilience. An excellent debut from a gifted and insightful writer.”
Darnell Arnoult, author of Sufficient Grace
“Robert Gipe has produced a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Here’s a narrator, Dawn, trapped absolutely in an Appalachian Gregor Samsa kind of way, surrounded by loved ones [who are] at times difficult to love. Dawn is precocious, bighearted, and fearless—a mountaintop-removal-fighting Mattie Ross. I couldn’t put this novel down.”
George Singleton, author of Between Wrecks
“Billboards. That’s what we need. ‘Dawn Jewell is queen’ on one. ‘Jump on this Trampoline’ on another. All of them shouting how good this book is. Read it, everyone, read it.”
Jim Minick, author of The Blueberry Years
“There are the books you like, and the books you love, and then there are the ones you want to hold to your heart for a minute after you turn the last page. Robert Gipe’s illustrated novel Trampoline is one of those—not just well written, which it is; and not just visually appealing, which the wonderfully deadpan black-and-white drawings make sure of; but there is something deeply lovable about it, an undertow of affection you couldn’t fight if you wanted to. …Gipe deftly avoids every single cliché that could trip such a story up, which includes having a pitch-perfect ear for dialect and making it into something marvelous.”
Lisa Peet, Library Journal’s “What We’re Reading”
“In 1980…John Kennedy Toole’s classic, A Confederacy of Dunces, was published by the Louisiana State University Press. The following year it won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. That 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.”
Knoxville News Sentinel/Chapter16.org
“…quite possibly, one of the best books to ever come out of eastern Kentucky.”
“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.”
Glenn Taylor, Electric Literature
“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
“Gipe [is] the best of populists: generous of spirit but not smarmy. There are some deeply flawed people in Dawn’s circle (she’s one of ’em), but they’re never all bad, never unchangeable but never unrealistically transformed. Gipe has a gift for staging tender reconciliations that you suspect won’t last through the afternoon.…To borrow from an old country song, “Trampoline” is ragged but right, and it builds to an effective blend of contrasting tones: world-weary yet hopeful, not too sentimental but — let’s quote Dawn once more — ‘soft, like the sound a Christmas tree makes when you throw it over the hill.’”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Canard County is a fictional county in Eastern Kentucky. It's rural, poor, and white. Coal mining, unemployment, drug addiction, and religious fervor dominate the landscape and the culture. It is, in other words, straight-up Appalachia. But as Trampoline embraces its Appalachian-ness, it also questions commonly held notions of what it means to be Appalachian. Its combination of prose narrative and quirky illustrations delivers a unique storytelling form, and the insightful, hilarious, and honest protagonist Dawn Jewell makes Trampoline unforgettable.”
Cartel Sickels, Southern Spaces