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Finalist, 2019 Weatherford Award (Fiction)
Weedeater is a contemporary story of love and loss told by a pair of eastern Kentucky mountaineers. Gene is a lovelorn lawnman who bears witness to the misadventures of a family entangled in drugs, artmaking, and politics, a family beset by environmental and self-destruction. And a young mother, Dawn Jewell, is at the center of the family. She spends the pages of Weedeater searching—for lost family members, lost youth, lost community, and lost heart. 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.
Weedeater picks up six years after the end of Robert Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, and continues the story of the people of Canard County, Kentucky. 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 it chronicles are frantic, but its voice is by turns taciturn and angry, filled with humor and stoic grace.
“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.”—Chapter16.org/Knoxville 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.”—Booklist
“(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