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Out of Peel Tree

Laura Long

Publication Year: 2014

Moving through time and space, Out of Peel Tree unfolds the patterns of an Appalachian sensibility that reverberate everywhere: a fatalism balanced by humor and flinty, hard-won hope, an appreciation for the surprises of the everyday, and a search for love and home amid strange and familiar places and people.

This innovative debut novel reveals the lives of a far-flung contemporary Appalachian family through a web of delicate turning points. A child discovers a grandmother she never knew has died. A runaway teen schemes to start a new life in Texas. A man on parole falls hopelessly in love with a shoplifter. A woman receives a letter about her husband’s other wife. An old woman confronts a burglar with the help of her ghost-husband.

United by a connection to their matriarch, these characters search at home and beyond to make a fresh sense of their changing lives. As a novel in stories, Out of Peel Tree brings a new lyricism to the page and a new voice to American and Appalachian literature—a voice deeply inflected by the beauty of the natural world and by working-class grit.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Praise, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. iii-xiii


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p. xiv-xiv


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p. xv-xv


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Remains: Corina

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pp. 3-5

...twisted, fell, twisted again, and ended at the edge of weeds, an old grape arbor, and a ramble of wild roses. Corina lived at the end of Oriole Street in what had been a caretaker’s house, and the overgrown field had been the grounds of a mansion. The mansion had burned down. A few blackened...

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What to Keep, What to Toss: Corina and Ruben

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pp. 6-22

...She rubbed his back with her baker’s hands, deft from shaping dough. Ghostly specks of flour were embedded under her nails, and the outer edges of her pinky fingers were calloused from being singed so many times by hot racks of bread. He turned and wrapped his arms around her, and she...

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Parole: Ruben

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pp. 23-34

...Ruben signs the papers, promises he’ll stay in Nevada till his parole is up. He thumbs a ride to Reno in the back of a pick-up. His body savors the sway and jolt, the unfamiliar rhythm of moving ahead. He thrusts his head above the cab to feel the wind...


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Out of Peel Tree: Essie

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pp. 37-39

...resting in her hotel room in Pearl Beach, Florida, far from her home in Peel Tree, West Virginia. She was an antique! Her hands were becoming translucent, and the blue veins glowed like miniature jeweled rivers. Her skin was as delicately dry as rice paper. Never before had she felt so fragile and light, she who had been tough since the age of six, when...

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When My Mama Sang: Corina

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pp. 40-42

...Her deep voice filled the drafty rooms and enveloped me in slow waves of tingle, as if her voice were a giant hand. Her eyes roved across the windows and clutter of furniture without focusing. She swung the dust mop handle in graceful arcs, she swayed like a skater...

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Who’s in the Kitchen with Dinah?: Billie

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pp. 43-59

...gray splotches and the floor a long shadow, I woke. The house was drowned in a depth of stillness possible only when no one has made a sound for hours. I knew my mother and little brother, Hector, were dreaming in the rooms next to mine. Hardly breathing...

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No Souvenirs: Corina

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pp. 60-65

...anymore. The oak tree spotted with buds folds me into its shadow. At dusk this downtown park is deserted, and no one notices me next to the tree trunk. Even if they did, I’m eighteen and nobody can make me go anywhere...

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Before Bliss Minimum: Joshua

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pp. 66-78

...She handed it back to him. “I’ll heat up supper,” he said. He was glad she was sitting down for a change. She had worked at Maggie’s restaurant since six o’clock this morning. He had thought she looked a little shaky when he dropped her off, but she just waved a curt goodbye, and he sped off...


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Dark Early: Billie

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pp. 81-87

...kitchen and remembered her honeymoon two years ago. She and Sam had flown—her first plane ride—to Mexico and jounced on an old blue bus to Isla de las Mujeres. They drank milk from coconuts that fell with soft thuds in the sand, and strolled under clicking palms beside a sea that lapped...

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Nerve: Anonymous

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pp. 88-92

...hovering twelve feet above the sparsely lit street, he saw the slain curved in a distorted S under the streetlight. And he saw his own head and feet and fists moving fast and blurred beneath the falling snow, dodging and zigzagging...

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Dreams and Schemes: Billie

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pp. 93-107

...shoulders against the January wind. She wondered what kind of car Rose would drive. A few other people stood in the airport breezeway, eyes searching the traffic. Everyone had somewhere to go. The cars gleamed red, green, silver. Playing a childhood game, Billie imagined the cars were jewels hammered out and transformed...

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The Last Old Lady on Blossom Street: Essie

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pp. 108-122

...once she didn’t have to wonder who would turn up hungry next. All her life she’d been feeding people, from little sisters and brothers, to husbands, children, grandchildren, and plenty of chickens, dogs, and cats, plus the other varmints the kids brought home—rabbits, turtles, and a blue parakeet named...

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Knot: Billie

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pp. 123-139

...paleness that stretched above his eyebrows. Billie pulled him away from the mirror and back to his bed. She ran her lips over his scalp’s orange fuzz, savoring the sparse velvet. Her fingers fluted over his ribs. He was so thin now the ripples of ribs appeared wing-shaped. She...

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Heavy Mirror: Corina

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pp. 140-143

...being the only request she had, back when she talked sense. “Bury me barefoot and I’ll sleep easy. If my ghost is a wanderer, she’ll feel the earth and know she’s in West Virginia.” I hug my brother and sisters goodbye, and I touch the fingertips of the newest arrival, Billie and Curtis’s fuzzy...

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p. 144-144

...I am grateful to Mark Adams for everything; Chip Hitchcock, Linda Long Kaze, Ann Pancake, Sara Pritchard, and the late Irene McKinney, for their faithful encouragement and insights. And thanks to Rosellen Brown, Laurie Lynn Drummond, Elizabeth DiBartolomeo Francis, Laura Furman, Cameron Lohr, Tricia McFarlin, Katie Stewart, Hilary...

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About the Author

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p. 145-145

...Laura Long has received a James Michener Fellowship, James River Writers Award, Donald Barthelme Fellowship, PEN-Texas Award, Virginia Center for Creative Arts fellowships, and has published in magazines including...

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Reading and Discussion Questions

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pp. 146-148

...All fictions seek to enchant, in one way or another. Critics have called attention to both the storytelling and the poetic qualities of this novel. Which images or passages conjure up a character’s experiences especially well? How does the language—the word choices, rhythms, or sounds—add to the pleasure...

E-ISBN-13: 9781940425023
E-ISBN-10: 1940425026
Print-ISBN-13: 9781940425009
Print-ISBN-10: 194042500X

Page Count: 140
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Families -- Appalachian Region -- Fiction.
  • Domestic fiction.
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