Look Back All the Green Valley A Novel

Fred Chappell




Trade Paperback

288 Pages


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A Southeast Booksellers Association Best Book of the Year

With Look Back All the Green Valley, Fred Chappell brings to a close one of the most rewarding cycles of novels in recent memory. Now grown, Jess Kirkman returns to the North Carolina mountain town of his boyhood to be with his ailing mother and to settle at last the family's accounts ten years after the death of his father. Established in Greensboro with his wife and the beginnings of a career as a poet, Jess has long been removed from his time in the hills. But cleaning out a secret workroom reunites Jess with tales of his youth and the spirit of his irrepressible father, Joe Robert Kirkman. A discovery he makes in his father's shed leads him back into the past, for in that dusty room he finds an unusual machine made of stovepipe and ceramic, and a handwritten map peppered with the names of several women. These clues help Jess uncover a part of his father's history he never knew: a quest through space and time in search of truth, beauty, and a perfect revenge.

Rich in the storytelling traditions of southern Appalachia, Fred Chappell's magical novel celebrates a way of life that has passed. Look Back All the Green Valley follows Chappell's three previous novels—Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You, Brighten the Corner Where You Are, and I Am One of You Forever—and confirms his status as one of our most treasured writers.


Praise for Look Back All the Green Valley

"Fred Chappell's narrative voice is a wonder and a joy—a combination of elegant erudition, lyric brilliance, and the idiom of Appalachia . . . Both a celebration of the southern Appalachian Mountains and a way of life and a lamentation for its loss . . . A master storyteller . . . ranging from tall tales that provide out-loud laughter to poetic, lyric passages that produce a lump in the throat."—The Miami Herald

"What a glorious time Fred Chappell must have had writing this fourth volume of his tetralogy . . . for it sparkles and amuses and rocks along in such an easy, happy voice . . . No one does a more impressive look back than Fred Chappell, our poet laureate."—Winston-Salem Journal

"A novel cycle destined to be cherished not just as a Southern, but as an American classic."—Orlando Sentinel

"Fans of Southern fiction should not miss this beautifully written novel."—Chicago Tribune

"A book sparkling with life and charm . . . A celebration of life's great moments."—The Christian Science Monitor

"Delightful . . . We don't want to miss a single funny phrase, a charming old word, or a sudden twist of the tale, involving people we wish we knew."—Arkansas Democrat Gazette

"Fred Chappell crafts the kind of novels other writers greet with envy. A natural storyteller who hails from Appalachia, he weaves together tall tales, dreams and visions, and page upon page of pitch-perfect dialogue into a style that's like the white-lightnin' cousin of magical realism."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"There's something fearless about the fervid quality of this book that's strangely beguiling. You can enter the Kirkman family quartet at any given point, but perhaps it is Jess Kirkman's advanced age that has given this final installment a bittersweet tone lacking—because unnecessary—in the others. It makes Look Back All the Green Valley stick in your memory not like a fantastic tall tale, but like an urgent message from the author: Don't forget me."—The Greensboro News & Record

"Chappell . . . narrates with his trademark voice, one both poetic and inclusive of the idioms of the Appalachian Mountain region . . . Intelligent and rewarding."—Publishers Weekly

"Chappell's irrepressible humor and homespun wisdom depict a long-gone way of southern Appalachian life. A loving look back to a long-ago time and place."—Library Journal

"Chappell draws upon the rich oral traditions, myths, and legends of southern Appalachia to take his readers deep into the heart of a world and time long past, with all its magic, mystery and wonder."—Bookwatch

"Delightful . . . A work of matchless ingenuity and eloquence—heartwarmingly funny."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



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Fred Chappell is the award-winning author of over twenty books of poetry and fiction. His previous novels include I Am One of You Forever and Brighten the Corner Where You Are. He teaches at the University of North Carolina in Grennsboro, where he lives with his wife Susan.
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  • Fred Chappell

  • Fred Chappell is the award-winning author of over twenty books of poetry and fiction. His previous novels include I Am One of You Forever and Brighten the Corner Where You Are. His awards include a Rockefeller Grant, the award in literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the best foreign novel prize from the French Academy, the Bollingen Prize in poetry, and the Ingersoll Foundation's T.S. Eliot Award for creative writing. He teaches at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, where he lives with his wife Susan.