On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon

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Putnam, 1998 - Fiction - 273 pages
16 Reviews
Lush in detail and vibrating with life of its characters, this powerful new novel invites us to experience a long-gone South through the life of a fascinating woman.

Emma Garnet, the heroine of Kaye Gibbons's sixth novel, takes the reader on a Southern journey through place and time from 1842 to 1900. We see her first as a plantation owner's daughter, pampered by servants yet self-taught in subjects not then in the woman's sphere. As a girl, she does not question the South's "peculiar institution", but gradually she recognizes the brutality of slavery. Still, during the Civil War, she works tirelessly in a Southern military hospital, ministering to the wounded out of her fervent sense of loyalty to the South.

Throughout the conflict Emma Garnet contains her own warring impulses: her love of the Old South and her hatred of the way it reduces people to chattel. After the war, Emma Garnet attempts to reconcile herself to its trail of death and devastation by moving North, where, she believes, her answers lie. Her search takes twenty years, and only near the end of her life does she find peace. The miracle of her story is in her heart's transformation.

"Kaye Gibbons's novels have the compact detail of folk art, without any of the corn", James Wolcott wrote in The New Yorker. Her latest creation features the moving portrayal of a strong and proud heroine who digs beneath the quotidian surface of her life to uncover an extraordinary world.

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Review: On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon

User Review  - Katy M - Goodreads

There were good parts of the book, but I have a lot of problems with it. 1. Emma Garnet is writing this at the end of her life. Usually when characters do that, they have it all mean something, and I ... Read full review

Review: On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon

User Review  - Debi Crouch - Goodreads

Her writing is very interesting. The characters are complicated. Relationships are deep. Very good summer read though not a very cheery story. Read full review


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About the author (1998)

Kaye Gibbons is the author of Ellen Foster, A Virtuous Woman, A Cure for Dreams, Charms for the Easy Life, and Sights Unseen. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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