By Margot Mifflin
September 06, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You

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”For thirty years I’ve carried conflicting versions of many stories in my mind and have come no closer to discerning the truth than when I was fifteen.” So writes Jess Kirkman, whose mother and grandmother tell the tales in this story collection that calls itself a novel. Painting a vibrant picture of life in the Carolinas in the first half of this century, Fred Chappell revels in the contradictions and embroideries of oral histories. From Aunt Samantha, a folk musician whose singing brought peace to a madwoman, to Ginger Summerell, a loner who courted her husband-to-be by whacking him with a .32 special, Chappell describes steely, passionate women, the savory foods they cook, and the luscious landscapes they inhabit. Although the down-home flavor in Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You gets a bit sugary in spots, Chappell writes piercingly about a way of life teeming with folk wisdom. A-

Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You

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