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I Am One of You Forever: A Novel (1985)

by Fred Chappell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3131165,431 (3.89)9
Wonderfully funny and also deeply touching, I Am One of You Forever is the story of a young boy's coming of age. Set in the hills and hollows of western North Carolina in the years around World War II, it tells of ten-year-old Jess and his family -- father, mother, grandmother, foster brother, and an odd assortment of other relatives -- who usher Jess into the adult world, with all its attendant joys and sorrows, knowledge and mystery. Jess's father is feisty, restless, and fun-loving. His mother is straitlaced and serious but accepts with grace and good humor the antics of the men of the family, a trait she learned from her own mother. Johnson Gibbs is the orphaned teenager who comes to live with them on their mountain farm. Life on the laurel-covered mountain is isolated and at times difficult, but for Jess it is made rich and remarkable through his relationship with his father and, especially, Johnson Gibbs. Visiting the farm from time to time is a gallery of eccentric relatives who are surely among the most memorable creations in recent fiction. Uncle Luden is a womanizer who left the mountains years ago for a job in California that "paid actual cash money." Uncle Gurton has a spooky way of appearing and disappearing without ever seeming to enter or exit, but it is his flowing beard, which he has apparently never trimmed and which he keeps tucked inside his overalls, that is of most fascination to Jess. Uncle Zeno is a storyteller. With the words "That puts me in mind of..." everyone around knows that he is about to launch into another of his endless tales. Uncle Runkin, who always brings his handmade coffin to sleep in whenever he visits, spends his time carving intricate designs into the coffin and trying to find just the right epitaph for his tombstone. Aunt Samantha Barefoot stops by for a brief spell, too. A country singer and cousin to Jess's grandmother, she is a woman of uncensored speech (Jess learns a lot from her) and honest emotions. Chappell tells the story of all of these characters in a series of chapters that range from fantasy and near farce to pathos. As notable for its lyrical descriptions of the rural settings as for its finely honed vernacular dialogue, I Am One of You Forever shows us a world full of wit and wisdom and the sadness at the heart of things. As one would expect from a poet like Fred Chappell, every line offers its own pleasures and satisfactions.… (more)
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English (9)  Spanish (2)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Love Fred Chappell and this was my first book of huis i had read. It's sort of like first love, it always has something special about it. Actually my first Love doesn't seem that special compared to this book: I was laughing and crying for the whole thing I think.
  newnoz | Aug 6, 2016 |
"The bright happy days darted past us like minnows."
Jess Kirkman, is a ten year old boy, growing up on a "scratch-ankle mountain farm", in western North Carolina. It is the early years of World War II. He lives with his parents, grandmother and an, older foster brother, he idolizes. Revolving through this wonderful coming of age novel, are a cast of visiting uncles and aunts, each more colorful and eccentric than the next, keeping Jess wide-eyed and awestruck.
The prose is gorgeous; poetic, touching and sometimes very funny. There are also bursts of magical realism, that take the simple rural tale to unexpected places. Also the dialogue, is deft and rich, like this passage, with the foster brother bragging to Jess about his baseball finesse:
"They never got good wood on me and only bad wood when I wanted to give my fielders something to do. I had them looking every place but where the ball was. I had them hypnotized, hornswoggled, and hooligated. They prayed rain on when I was going to pitch and I prayed it off again."
Simply beautiful. ( )
  msf59 | Oct 11, 2014 |
An excellent collection of stories about a southern mountain family, centering around the boy they took in, Johnson Gibbs. ( )
  Fernhill | Aug 20, 2013 |
I AM ONE OF YOU FOREVER is a collection of vignettes narrated by Jess, the son of a farmer living in the North Carolina mountains during World War II. The theme for these stories is family; they mostly concern visits by a series of strange aunts and uncles, but they are also about Jess’ closeness with his immediate family, particularly his father and his adoptive brother. The stories are written in a folkloric style, and many take on the aspect of a fairy tale, as Jess describes the amazing, impossible things he witnesses in the course of his everyday life. While I didn’t connect to this collection as strongly as I did to its companion volume, FAREWELL, I’M BOUND TO LEAVE YOU, I always enjoy Fred Chappell’s poetic voice and his quietly charming style. ( )
  sturlington | Jul 27, 2011 |
Chappell's protagonist, Jess, the son of a North Carolina farmer living in the mountains during World War II tells the stories of a boy growing up in a rural setting. The stories are populated by a collections of aunts and uncles whose visits read like fables of old. The stories must be read with a light heart because if taken too seriously, the book loses its charm. The work while charming is cast under a pall of subtle sadness. The reader's state of mind at the time of reading will influence how it is received. ( )
  gpsman | Mar 5, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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In memory of Guy Owen
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Then there was one brief time when we didn't live in the big brick house with my grandmother but in a neat two-storey green shingled white house in the holler below.
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Wonderfully funny and also deeply touching, I Am One of You Forever is the story of a young boy's coming of age. Set in the hills and hollows of western North Carolina in the years around World War II, it tells of ten-year-old Jess and his family -- father, mother, grandmother, foster brother, and an odd assortment of other relatives -- who usher Jess into the adult world, with all its attendant joys and sorrows, knowledge and mystery. Jess's father is feisty, restless, and fun-loving. His mother is straitlaced and serious but accepts with grace and good humor the antics of the men of the family, a trait she learned from her own mother. Johnson Gibbs is the orphaned teenager who comes to live with them on their mountain farm. Life on the laurel-covered mountain is isolated and at times difficult, but for Jess it is made rich and remarkable through his relationship with his father and, especially, Johnson Gibbs. Visiting the farm from time to time is a gallery of eccentric relatives who are surely among the most memorable creations in recent fiction. Uncle Luden is a womanizer who left the mountains years ago for a job in California that "paid actual cash money." Uncle Gurton has a spooky way of appearing and disappearing without ever seeming to enter or exit, but it is his flowing beard, which he has apparently never trimmed and which he keeps tucked inside his overalls, that is of most fascination to Jess. Uncle Zeno is a storyteller. With the words "That puts me in mind of..." everyone around knows that he is about to launch into another of his endless tales. Uncle Runkin, who always brings his handmade coffin to sleep in whenever he visits, spends his time carving intricate designs into the coffin and trying to find just the right epitaph for his tombstone. Aunt Samantha Barefoot stops by for a brief spell, too. A country singer and cousin to Jess's grandmother, she is a woman of uncensored speech (Jess learns a lot from her) and honest emotions. Chappell tells the story of all of these characters in a series of chapters that range from fantasy and near farce to pathos. As notable for its lyrical descriptions of the rural settings as for its finely honed vernacular dialogue, I Am One of You Forever shows us a world full of wit and wisdom and the sadness at the heart of things. As one would expect from a poet like Fred Chappell, every line offers its own pleasures and satisfactions.

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