I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell: Book Review

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Cover of I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell

4 Stars

Jess, his mom, dad, grandmother and farmhand/adoptive brother, Johnson, live a quiet life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They farm, visit with relatives, play some baseball, and get up to a whole lot of no good, as my grandmother would say. Jess’s dad is a mischief-maker. He just can’t help it. Johnson and Jess adore him and follow his lead in everything. Whether it’s Halloween tricks or trying to find out exactly how long Uncle Gurton’s beard really is, they are always up to something.

I laughed so hard reading this! My poor husband might as well have read it with me; I read all the good parts out loud to him anyway, and they were all good parts. He’s not much of a reader and it just blows his mind when I start guffawing out of the blue at something I’ve read, but even he let out a few chuckles as I read to him.

I read and enjoyed Brighten the Corner Where You Are by this author several years ago. It was funny and then all of a sudden it had this serious message. It was also written from a child’s point of view, so the kid’s missing what’s going on but the older reader really sees it. Well played, Mr. Chappell. I waited for something to come out and hit me in this book too. It didn’t really happen. There was a bit in there about the cost of war, and I guess you could even say something about what soldiers in WWII were fighting to protect, but mostly this felt like a bunch of good family stories of the sort that tend to take on a life of their own.

I feel like I write this every time I read a well-written book set in Appalachia, but these characters felt like my people. I call this part of the world home and always have. The word choice, the eccentric characters, the tight-knit families that tease each other mercilessly but always have each other’s backs–that describes my extended family. I just love when someone records it and gets it right. Times are changing everywhere, even in these sleepy mountains, but at least our way of life is preserved for the future somewhere.

For a good laugh and a look at a simpler time and way of life, give this one a try.

Buy I Am One of You Forever at

Southern Literature Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

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  1. We don't adapt to change easily here, so it's probably easier for me to find something that slightly glorifies the old days and paints them as better than they probably were. Still, that offsets writers (and others) who aren't from here who think we're all "rednecks" or "hillbillies" or any of too many other unflattering epithets. That's around, for sure, but like any group of people, we're a lot more varied than that. It's nice to have someone represent the good things about us too.

  2. I just got back from visiting this part of the country. It is beautiful there! I will check out this book. Thanks!

  3. +JMJ+

    June is the month when I read a lot of books written by Filipino writers, and bumping up against characters who are indisputably "my people" can be a mixed experience. On the one hand, there's definitely a sense of connection I can get with them that I don't find in books by foreign writers, however much their characters and I may relate on a personal level. On the other hand, I chafe a bit at the limitations geography and ethnicity seem to have put on me.

    I'd love to read a book about the Philippines that is similar to what you say of I Am One of You Forever: a record and celebration of a wonderful way of life. But all the writers I come across seem more fascinated by the dark side or by worlds already in transition.

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