A coming-of-age story of hope, betrayal, and familial legacy set in rural Appalachia.
Set in the run-up and aftermath of the 2016 election, Pop brings the Canard County trilogy to a close as Dawn, the young narrator of Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, is now the mother of the seventeen-year-old Nicolette. Whereas Dawn has become increasingly agoraphobic as the internet persuades her the world is descending into chaos, Nicolette narrates an Appalachia where young people start businesses rooted in local food culture and work to build community. But Nicolette’s precocious rise in the regional culinary scene is interrupted when her policeman cousin violently assaults her, setting in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy the family—and Canard County in the process.
In the tradition of Gipe’s first two novels, Pop’s Appalachia is full of clear-eyed, caring, creative, and complicated people struggling to hang on to what is best about their world and reject what is not. Their adventures reflect an Appalachia that is overrun by outside commentators looking for stories to tell about the region—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but almost always oversimplified.
A headlong tumble into a proud and problem-plagued Appalachia, this addictive illustrated novel by Gipe (third in a series after Weedeater) is a delightful gabfest. Set in 2016 in eastern Kentucky's imaginary Canard County (known, one character laments, for "mine strikes and poverty programs and everybody being hooked on pills"), 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 (Hubert on the election: "Them two was fighting over a pie we'd forgot the taste of") and delightful colloquialisms (Hubert again, on an attractive young woman: "She walked through the smoke like she was the fire"), 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.