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Gabriel Bump's second novel blooms into 'very human' story

Photo Courtesy of Jaime Sanchez.

“Sad, happy, funny, sad," Gabriel Bump said when asked to describe his new novel, "The New Naturals."

Bump began the press tour for his second published book on Tuesday at Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews on Franklin Street.

Photo Courtesy of Jaime Sanchez.

While the central premise of the book follows a pair of professors who experience a terrible tragedy and build an underground utopia in the rural mountains of western Massachusetts, its complex themes go beyond that.

“It’s less about the functions of what a different society would be, like the of day to day of it, and it's more about what drives people to go seek out something like that, to go seek refuge from the world,” Bump said. “Like, what kind of despair are they feeling in their personal life that makes them want to remove themselves from the world?”

The story is rooted in a personal experience that Bump had after his graduating with his Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I was just feeling kind of lost in western Massachusetts, just really unhappy,” Bump said. “And so I decided to try and work through that unhappiness.” 

"The New Naturals" centers around six main characters and features each of their perspectives throughout the book.

Bump said his writing process for this novel started by working with one of the characters. He continued that pattern as he crafted new characters in an effort to figure out what happiness looked like for each.

“It ended up being this big puzzle where everyone is feeling unhappy for different reasons and we're trying to put them together and find what makes them happy,” Bump said.

The story bloomed from there, Bump said.

He said he hopes readers leave the book with the understanding of the importance of leaning into loved ones and people who bring happiness.

Along with being the author of "The New Naturals" and "Everywhere You Don’t Belong," which came out in 2020, Bump is a professor in the UNC Department of English and Comparative Literature and said he considers himself part of a creative writing family in the department.

His editor and co-conversationalist at the reading, Kathy Pories, introduced Bump to the Chapel Hill community. After receiving her Ph.D. from UNC, she spent most of her adult life in Chapel Hill and Durham.

“I haven't done an event with her like this before, so even that's just really special,” Bump said.

Bump received support from local colleagues, friends and community members at the free event.

Em Welsh, a UNC alum, has known Bump for several years, and has seen some of the insight and process that went into the development of the book.

“Just getting to come out and see his hard work and see just how proud he is of it was a really, really special little experience,” Walsh said.

While Welsh has not read the book yet, they said Bump displayed it as a "very human" piece that elevates different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences that they could find comfort in.

Addison Hill, a current UNC sophomore studying psychology, was also in attendance at the book launch after her professor informed her of the opportunity.

Hill said she liked the writing style Bump utilized during his short passage readings, and that she's planning to read the book.

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“I just think that he's very eloquently-spoken,” Hill said. “I enjoyed the tight-knit vibe of this, it felt comfortable and relaxed, which I appreciated.”

Photo Courtesy of Jaime Sanchez.

@dthlifestyle |

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