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Book Look Back All the Green Valley: A Novel by Fred Chappell (2000-10-06)


Look Back All the Green Valley: A Novel by Fred Chappell (2000-10-06)

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Will be shipped from US. Used books may not include companion materials, may have some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, may not include CDs or access codes. 100% money back guarantee.

4.4 (2687)
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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Picador; 1st edition (2000-10-06) (1656)
  • Unknown
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Review Text

  • By Bruce J. Wasser on April 22, 2001

    Written with undercurrents of loss and sadness, Fred Chappell's "Look Back All the Green Valley" completes his tetrology on life in the hidden and perhaps disappearing Appalachia of his childhood. Unlike the first three volumes, which were joyous and whimsical explorations of family and place, this final volume carries the burdens of age: the author says farewell to beloved parents and realizes that the cherished characteristics of one's home may endure only in memory and not in reality. For the Appalachia of Jess Kirkman has become vulgarized with strip malls and ersatz accents, and the improbable, imaginative and soaring stories of his father, Joe Robert, are now tinged with a subtle hurt -- a knowing sense that, ultimately, Jess must come to grips with not only his father's death, but his own mortality. This sense of finality, in the author's words, makes not only Jess, but the reader, "melancholy, homesick for times I could never reclaim, for hours that I had seemed to lose even when I had lived through them."The narrative, as in the case of all the Jess Kirkman novels, is incidental to the story telling and character sketches. Cora Kirkman, the mother of Mitzi and Jess, the matriarch of the family, confronts a terminal illness with the knowledge that her planned burial next to her beloved, iconoclastic and fanciful husband Joe Robert will not occur due to an unfortunate oversight at an overcrowded and oversubscribed cemetary. Ultimately resolving the problem with techniques his father surely would have loved, Jess discovers yet more of his father's fertile, secret life -- schemes that treat everything from improbable travel through time and space to deciphering a map whose locations feature the names of mysterious women. Chappell's familiar mastery of the Appalachian idiom, his marvelous ability to tell a story and his unabashed respect for the people and physical environment of Appalachia appear again in this novel. What is different is the sense of finality in the writing; the novel's very title, taken from a fetching Appalachian song, denotes a sense of pespective and farewell. Though his father has been dead some ten years, it is painfully clear how fiercely Jess still loves his father and how deep, keep and present is his sense of loss. Indeed, the mournful aura of "Look Back" provides solace to any reader whose lie has been diminished by the loss of a parent and whose grief is so real that it feels freshly minted. Even laughter brought by fond memories is washed in tears.It is this sense of summary and conclusion which ironically saps "Look Back" from the vitality and conviction of the first three volumes of the series. Joe Robert's life is much more memory and recollection than living presence, and Jess' anguish over a final farewell to his family's past hands, dirge-like, over the writing. What original stories there are in "Look Back" sparkle with tender humor and gentle wisdom; unfortunately, far too many stories are recounted with a dependence on the reader's memory of previous volumes. The multi-talented poet, essayist and novelist Fred Chappell is truly a national treasure. Though not up to the standards of his previous works, "Look Back" will add to his much-deserved reputation.

  • By A customer on April 10, 2004

    I grant that I have not read any of Chappell's other novels (and the bulk of reviews seem to indicate their superiority), but I found this work to be a terrible disappointment. The mystery was not intriguing and the characters were, largely, not compelling. These faults were compounded by poor writing. The dialogue was forced and the language contrived. The use of local idiom profoundly unimpressive. From reading reviews, I was expecting something between Clyde Edgerton and T.R. Pearson but was met instead with something devoid of storytelling grace, depth and Southern charm.

  • By Kirtyhep on April 22, 2005

    Fred Chappell is an author that can create a story full of southern charm and "gentile folk" but can still have you on the edge of your seat wondering what Jess Kirkman's adventures will bring. His character development allows you to fall in love with Joe Robert while identifying with a man's quest to posthumously know his father. Chappell's books make you want to move to Appalachia and learn to play the banjo, yet contain a subtle and intellectual beauty through his use of language. If you enjoyed books such as MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL and off-beat characters, Chappell is the author for you.

  • By Guest on December 31, 2014

    Classic southern writing! One time poet laureate from state of North Carolina.

  • By Kelly Cherry on December 28, 1999

    Another wonderful book by Fred Chappell. This one completes a quartet of novels that mirrors/shadows/parallels his quartet of book-length poems, =Midquest=. =Look Back All the Green Valley= also memorializes a vanishing way of life and speech, a hill South that, thanks to him, will not be forgotten. Not to mention that it is charming and feisty, surprising and quirky, fast and funny.

  • By C. Rosehelen on September 15, 2001

    The south will always be fertile ground for a novelists imagination.The atmosphere and the culture seem to call out for exposition. If you enjoy reading this type of novel DO NOT read this one. I recommend Rick Braggs covering of the same territory. Mr Bragg is a good writer.

  • By Joy on September 12, 2000

    I highly recommend Chappell's latest (1 of 6 books nominated for the Appalachian Book of the Year Award). In my opinion it's his best yet and they have all been good.

  • By Martha Ann Fraley on September 10, 2005

    This is one of Chappell's best. Great images of the way the south is today.

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