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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You

1. The title is a line from the Southern ballad, "O Shenandoah." How does the tradition of folk song relate to Chappell's method of telling his story?

2. The first sentence of the book, "The wind had got into the clocks and blown the hours awry," suggests that time has changed, and we are about to enter into an unfamiliar world. What sort of world does the book open up for us? How does this world reflect upon the one in which we live oureveryday lives?

3. Each story Jess remembers contains central women characters. What is the role of women in Jess's coming of age? What wisdom do these stories contain that stories about men might not?

4. Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You is deeply rooted in Southern traditions of storytelling, and in its hill country. Yet the book has a universal feel, gdimages/transcending its setting and colloquialism. How does Chappell's portrayal of the Kirkman family vary from more "urban" scenes of family life? What do we gain as a result?

5. What will Jess take from his grandmother after she passes on? In the world Chapel has created, how is it possible to keep the past alive for generations to come? If the novel begins as a death vigil, how does it become a celebration of life?

6. How does Chappell's style differ from most contemporary fiction? Chappel is also a poet -- how does that affect his use of language?

7. Jess's father, Joe Robert, is said not to be a good storyteller. In the logic f the novel, does that mean he plays a lesser role than his wife, or Jess's grandmother? What sort of role does he have?

Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You
by Fred Chappell

  • Publication Date: August 15, 1997
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 0312168349
  • ISBN-13: 9780312168346