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I Am One of You Forever

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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.

184 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1985

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About the author

Fred Chappell

90 books101 followers
Fred Davis Chappell retired after 40 years as an English professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997-2002. He attended Duke University.

His 1968 novel Dagon, which was named the Best Foreign Book of the Year by the Academie Française, is a recasting of a Cthulhu Mythos horror story as a psychologically realistic Southern Gothic.

His literary awards include the Prix de Meilleur des Livres Etrangers, the Bollingen Prize, and the T. S. Eliot Prize.

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5 stars
603 (43%)
4 stars
465 (33%)
3 stars
235 (16%)
2 stars
67 (4%)
1 star
32 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 146 reviews
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,288 followers
August 1, 2022
رواية جميلة بدءا من الغلاف.. مزيج بين الواقع والخيال وبين الفكاهة والحزن
يحكي صبي عن حياته في مزرعة بين الجبال في الجنوب الأمريكي في بداية الحرب العالمية الثانية
كل فصل حكاية جديدة وشخصيات جديدة.. العمل الشاق في المزرعة, الزوار والأقارب
المشاكسات والمعابثات التي يقوم بها الأب والأخ مع أفراد العائلة
تفاصيل الشخصيات مميزة وخاصةً شخصية الأب, أسلوب جميل وسرد مرح وممتع
Profile Image for Melki.
5,674 reviews2,324 followers
August 16, 2015
To go fishing with your father: that is an ancient and elemental proposition, and it is not as overwhelming as sex or death or the secret lives of animals, still there are legendary shadows about it entrancing to a boy twelve years old.

This is a simple, lovely, elegiac novel of a young boy's life on a North Carolina farm during the forties. The story is woven as a series of events and anecdotes. Visiting relatives take on almost mythological proportions as tellers of tall tales, sprouters of mystical beards, and the butts of practical jokes. I really enjoyed the sibling-like relationship between the narrator and the family's hired farmhand.

Oh, and this line from the young man watching his parents say goodbye - They engaged in a kiss that wasn't brief enough to suit me as I stared at the wall. - made me chuckle with the way it quintessentially captures a childhood moment that is "all-boy."

There's definitely a bittersweet tone to this book, a constant reminder that life is brief, and memories need to be accumulated and savored.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,230 reviews451 followers
June 29, 2019
I was under the impression that this was a novel, but it's actually a book of short stories. Some of them are tall tales, there's an element of magical realism in a lot of them, but the same cast of characters are in each story, with a revolving cast of visiting aunts and uncles, each more eccentric than the last. The writing is spectacular, the dialogue is perfect, with lots of humor and a little bit of sadness.
Profile Image for Hasan حسن  منصور.
369 reviews47 followers
June 11, 2017
غريب كيف أن بعض الكتاب ممن يكتبون روائع لا يحظون بشهرة كمن هم أقل منهم إبداعا وموهبة!..فريد تشابل مثال على ذلك
وروايته هذه ممتعة ولطيفة وحميمية على الرغم من الفنتازيا داخلها.. قراءة ممتعة على أمل أن تترجم له أعمال أخرى
14 reviews180 followers
August 10, 2009
The perfect rendering of a Southern childhood. I'm buying this book for people constantly
228 reviews
September 30, 2012
Fred Chappell is one of my favorite Appalachian writers--maybe one of the most enjoyable writers I've read in general. This book (published in 1985) is the first of what some call the "Kirkman Tetralogy"--four books narrated by Jess Kirkman. Jess would seem to be a thinly veiled autobiographical representation of Chappell. In this book, we visit his memories of preteen years growing up in North Carolina in the 1940s. We come to know the Kirkman/Sorrels family, particularly Jess's father Joe Robert, with whom he shares a genuine friendship, and we meet a host of others (mostly Uncles and one Aunt) who drift in and out of his life. Chappell produces characters who talk and act in ways that seem entirely realistic and sincere and then just occasionally slips in something magical that catches both the characters and the reader a bit off guard.

You can pick up just about any chapter of this book and read it as a complete and satisfying short story mixing what seems like dead-on description of life in the rural south with what seems like a homespun folk tale. However, the common threads of Jess's coming of age, his relationship to his father, and a family tragedy that effects everyone ties it all together nicely.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,362 reviews103 followers
October 11, 2014
"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.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews542 followers
May 20, 2019
For some reason, I've never been a big fan of short-story collections. It may be that they often do not give me time to identify with a character before the tale ends. This charming collection, however, centers around one family and their eccentric queue of relatives who come to stay with them.

The poet laureate of North Carolina wrote this book, and it amazed me that his wording and phrases were so reachable. A fairly shallow reader, poetry itself usually has meanings Im not deep enough to plumb. This felt like a long happy visit with family. After reading maybe six novels of well written grit-lit, I cracked this open, and it was like butterscotch and sunshine - sweet and lovely. Totally enjoyed it!
Profile Image for JG (Introverted Reader).
1,112 reviews484 followers
June 24, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Claire.
64 reviews1 follower
March 12, 2008
How do I explain a book like, "I Am One of You Forever"? It was deeply satisfying - the luminous prose, the tying up of loose ends...just tight enough...the mix of strange and commonplace. There are few books that cause me to make audible sounds when I read them (unless I'm reading aloud of course). This book made me laugh outloud as well as gasp at the pure genius of how Chappell strings words together. His writing is filled with unique similes and metaphors, creating clear pictures for my mind's eye. These word pictures made his characters (cooky as many of them were) very nearly jump off the page and sit down next to me.
Yes. A deeply satisfying read for sure.
133 reviews
July 19, 2009
This has been in and out of my "to read" pile for close to 15 years. I am so glad it made it to the top of pile when I needed lots of laughs. Another title might be "Men (and the Boys Who Love Them) Behaving Badly in a Kinder, Gentler Time." Pick this one up when you need to be reminded of one universal truth--families, whether they have all the advantages or not, are only as strong as the love, patience, and acceptance they give each other.
Profile Image for Mariam Al-Naqr.
7 reviews11 followers
December 9, 2009
Read an Arabic translation by Nehad Seleha
نهاد صليحة

The book is not an ordinary adventure book. It is very funny but so touching too. The of integration of magical realism into the book is done very beautifully. There is a 4-page chapter called البرقية The Telegram ... it is one of the best things I've read EVER.
May 10, 2022
"I felt that I understood him in a way I hadn't before. He was some necessary part of nature we hadn't recognized, seeing him only as a windy old man. But he was more than that, and different. What was he doing now that the story had ended in him? Why, he was sitting on the tree, giving audience to the history of its regal life and calamitous downfall, a story I couldn't hear."

A new personal classic. The world through the eyes of an observant, adoring, mischievous son gathering all he knows from his family. Funny, heartfelt, imaginative--at times preposterously so--all the magic of a child's mind and the grit of farm life in 1940's North Carolina. A treasure & a delight. Yes!!!! <3
June 22, 2022
4.5 - there isn’t much of an overarching plot, but the writing is beautiful. the ending is absolutely incredible and really made this book meaningful (before, would be a 3-4 star)
Profile Image for Mostafa Sayed.
181 reviews13 followers
November 8, 2018
يصحبنا الطفل الراوي (جيس) إلي رحلة ممتعة للجنوب الأمريكي , حيث المراعي والمزارع والمساحات الشاسعة وسحر الطبيعة الخلاب , في تلك البقعة المنعزلة نسبياً عن المدن تدور أحداث الرواية في فترة الحرب العالمية الثانية 1939-1945.
يزور بيت العائلة بين الحين والآخر بعض الأعمام والعمات من أقارب العائلة , تختلف شخصياتهم , فتجد هذا غريب الأطوار وهذا تصرفاته مريبة , نجد أيضاً صديق العائلة (جونسون) ذلك الفتي الذي تمني أن يعيش في سلام ولكن الحرب اللعينة أبت عليه ذلك.
ستقابل الخال لودن بمغامراته النسائية المثيرة , والعم جيرتون ولحيته الأسطورية , والعم زينو وحكاياته اللانهائية , والدكتور ماكجريفي وحصانه المتكلم.
ببساطة هذه الرواية هي توليفة جميلة من الحكايات الأمريكية الرائعة التي لا تملك إلا أن تُعجب بها.
ملحوظة : الترجمة رائعة جداً.
Profile Image for Michele.
10 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2010
My all-time favorite book. It is a masterpiece of Appalachian story-telling, seamlessly blending the fantastic with harsher realities. I have never wanted so much to read a book aloud, as it needs a mountain twang to be heard properly. Amazing imagery, vivid characters (real people? who can say?). A book with great heart.
Profile Image for Anne.
45 reviews
December 4, 2014
I loved this book! It's a quick read with stories that you're sure did not happen but wish were true!
Profile Image for Joe.
Author 52 books30 followers
June 22, 2020
I Am One of You Forever, Fred Chappell. Rewarding surprises in tone, moving from comic, to fantastical, to tall-tale, to tragic. Set before and during World War II, the novel follows a son—the narrator—his father, and a young male orphan the grandmother connives to adopt, so he can help work the farm. Reading what I just wrote reminded me how much like Huckleberry Finn this novel is in its overall narration. Chappell’s language is divine: it too tumbles from the best and most primitive country metaphor to silken sophistication. There are moments when I had to stop and let my heart catch up. Highly recommended!
August 27, 2019
This is really more of a 3-1/2 star. But since I can't half it, I'll move it up rather than down. I think it deserves more than less.

"The bright happy days darted past us like minnows."
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. He uses short stories to tell about growing up with his father, grandmother, mother, Johnson Gibbs (an older boy who comes to live with them that Jess idolizes), and the interesting aunts and uncles whose visits range from fun to weird, fascinating to downright scary. The reader needs to remember that these recollections are from the mind of a young boy so some remembrances may seem like science fiction and be totally unbelievable to the adult mind. Don’t skim over the part about the word “yipes”. This had me laughing out loud.
Profile Image for Karen.
592 reviews14 followers
May 18, 2017
A small book of mostly short stories involving members of a family living in western North Carolina. They're charming, funny, sad, fanciful, and weird. I enjoyed them, but am not a short story fan for the most part. I like to get really involved in my books and short stories don't do it for me. However, I liked the writing style and plan to read another book by this author - a novel this time.
Profile Image for Tiffany Speed.
112 reviews12 followers
August 30, 2018
As a devout lover of all Applachain writing, I knew I would love this book, but was so deeply disappointed. The entire novel was very choppy, often times leaving me to believe this would have faired better as a complilation of short stories. I even wanted to throw in the towel (which I have only done twice) and move on to another more interesting read, but I forced myself to finish it. The later chapters were scarely better than the beginning and the conclusion did tie in slightly, but ever so. Unfortunately, I was thoroughly disappointed and find much lack to compare it to many Applachain fiction writers who captivate, intrigue, and capture the essence that is Applachia.
Profile Image for Muhammed.
298 reviews7 followers
March 1, 2021
سأفتقد كل من في المنزل جيس وجو روبرت الاب ، وجنسون وبقية العائلة ، لم اعتقد ان الصدفة البحتة في طرقات وسط البلد ستقودني الى رواية من افضل الروايات التي قرأتها ، هذه الشاعرية وهذه البساطة لم اراها الا في رواية الكهف لساراماجو ، لن الطخ هذا الرائعة بنقد او تعليق .
Profile Image for Mary Blocksma.
4 reviews2 followers
December 24, 2017
Wow, I got a real Christmas present with this book, which I recently bought at a thrift store for a quarter. Fred Chappell is a gift. I knew from page 1 that I was going to love it and I did, every single page. It's kind of a coming of age story on a North Carolina farm during World War II, but the characters are the genius of it, most of them eccentric relatives from the boy's mother's family who come to visit. I immediately ordered more books by Fred Chappell, who is also known as an award-winning poet. He is not so well known in these Michigan parts--I had to do interlibrary loan for future reads.
Profile Image for Monica.
Author 9 books19 followers
January 30, 2020
This was enjoyable, albeit a bit self-conscious as a novel of the Storytelling in the American South. Still, Chappell’s often poetic language is enjoyable, and the occasional drifts into the supernatural are often quite effective.
January 19, 2023
"I Am One of You Forever" is one of the funniest, heartfelt, magical, self-contained and downright excellent books I've read in a long time. I discovered Fred Chappell in a local newspaper article, which called him something along the lines of the best Southern writer you've never heard of. He was, after all, the North Carolina poet laureate for awhile. It's easy to see why, given his breezy and beautiful prose.

What makes this book so special is that you never know when Chappell is going to deploy his patented magical realism. One of his stories will be reading like a straight-forward Raymond Carver piece when all of a sudden an old man's beard is growing out of control until it fills an entire house. These strange moments emerge so organically on the page that they seem entirely plausible. You believe they could actually happen.

Sidenote: The fact that Chappell was born in Canton (located 20 minutes from my home) makes my love for this book even deeper.
Profile Image for Raül De Tena.
203 reviews71 followers
December 4, 2008
Pudiera parecer que Libros Del Asteroide se está centrando en la Norteamérica rural de mediados de siglo. Si Adiós, Hasta Mañana de William Maxwell (una de las últimas referencias de esta editorial) miraba hacia allá, Me Voy Con Vosotros Para Siempre hace lo propio... pero con ciertas variables más que gratificantes. Para empezar, el tono general de depresión social se ve ungido por una mirada infantil que no duda en incurrir en un realismo mágico que tiene muchísimo más de poesía que de (¡Dios nos salve!) Isabel Allende.

Por lo demás, Chappel no se atiene a un argumento lineal y cada capítulo es una pieza fragmentaria de un puzzle mucho mayor: cada episodio es el retrato en miniatura de un miembro lejano de su familia. Los tíos freaks y las tías fascinantes van desfilando, uno a uno, sin más pretensión que inmortalizar la mirada de un niño. No hay un argumento que hile los retratos. No hoy unas pretensiones elevadas que intenten ensalzar el relato hacia cotas cultas superiores... Ni falta que le hace.

En conjunto, Me Voy Con Vosotros Para Siempre acaba captando de forma sublime no sólo la fascinación de cualquier niño hacia el entorno familiar en el que crece, donde siempre hay excusas para dejar volar la imaginación; sino que, sobre todo, retrata a la perfección esa sensación frustante de que el mundo de los adultos es una esfera a la que nunca podrás acceder, de la que serás expulsado eternamente por muchos años que pasen.
Profile Image for Tara.
135 reviews70 followers
March 28, 2007
Favorite Quotes

The tear on my mother’s cheek got larger and larger. It detached from her face and became a shiny globe, widening outward like an inflating balloon. At first the tear floated in the air between them, but as it expanded it took my mother and father into itself. I saw them suspended, separate but beginning to slowly drift towards one another. Then my mother looked past my father’s shoulder, looked through the bright skin of the tear, at me. The tear enlarged until at last, it took me in, too. It was warm and salt. As soon as I got used to the strange light inside the tear, I began to swim clumsily towards my parents.

There were too many things suddenly that I didn’t understand, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I knew that I needed to be older, but that’s not enough. You have to have some basic information that was not yet available to me.

Our thoughts were so awesome to us, that no one could speak a word, not even ‘Goodbye.’ We hugged and clasped and wept silently.

In the midst of life, we are in death.
Profile Image for Laura.
764 reviews57 followers
June 5, 2008
Funny book, and the blurb on the back is accurate when Fred Chappell is compared to Eudora Welty. They are certainly similar in their styles. However, I believe Welty is the stronger writer, and if one is looking for Southern/country comedic writing, I would recommend both writers, though I would personally lean toward Welty over Chappell.

I thought the first half of the book (prior to The Telegram) was better than the second half. I don't know why that was...perhaps I was just getting tired of the vignettes, as this is outside of my normal taste in books. I especially thought the vignette entitled The Storytellers was too long, as it dragged during the latter pages. The best vignette (for me) by far was The Beard, and that one alone makes the book worth the read. It is a hilarious story, and produced perhaps the best line of the entire novel: "I've had an elegant sufficiency; any more would be a superfluity."
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