On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon
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On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,763 ratings  ·  155 reviews
Emma Garnet Tate Lowell, a plantation owner's daughter, grows up in a privileged lifestyle, but it's not all roses. Her family's prosperity is linked to the institution of slavery, and Clarice, a close and trusted family servant, exposes Emma to the truth and history of their plantation and how it brutally affected the slave population.

Her father, Samuel P. Tate, has an ag...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published June 1st 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Julie
We read this one for book club and everyone was excited because they have really liked the author in the past. I found the book to have a very strange style of writing. It was very unclear… sort of a cross between stream of consciousness and flashback. It is about a Southern plantation girl who marries a Northern doctor and their experiences during the Civil War. Most of the story is her battle with her ignorant, self made father. I found some of the book interesting and it did get better toward...more
Kristine Morris
This book was just okay. I will say that all my criticisms of the book are about things that are perhaps intentional by the author. The timeline was very difficult to follow at times. Not sure if it was purposely structured this way, since the character is sort of (but not really) retelling the story on her last day. It doesn't feel like the occasion of her last afternoon because the book rarely focuses on the present day - it's almost a bit of afterthought at the end or beginning of the chapter...more
Sally
My heart is heavy upon finishing this book, but more from solemnity than sorrow. Reviewing a lifetime will do that to you, even if it isn't your own life being reviewed. The protagonist is an old woman in the South, looking back over her many years and recounting her memories. While this book is powerful for many reasons (a consideration of race relations in the antebellum South, of how social hierarchy can bring out the worst in some people, of the deprivation and difficulty of the Civil War on...more
Sherri
I picked this book up 2nd hand. I have read Kaye's books before and I thought it sounded like an interesting story. After reading some of the reviews here I was worried but I really did enjoy this book. I always enjoy reading about people who lived through difficulties but come out better for them and I think this is one of those type books. If you want everything to be sunshine and roses then do not read this book. The graphic descriptions of the civil war experience could also bother some but...more
Carol
This is the first Kaye Gibbons novel I have read. I found the narration of human complexity with a Father that embodied all that was wrong with the South and a husband who eschewed all that was right with the North to whet my appetite to check other novels that she has written - don't authors do their best story in a first novel rather than this, her sixth? Gibbons tells the heroine, Emma Garnet's, well heeled saga as an aged and mellow woman. Her childhood, marriage, and the Civil War plus her...more
Sonya
Maybe I've just been in a literary desert recently, but I loved this book. I generally love Kaye Gibbons and this story was beautifully written. This is a story of one woman's life from childhood, through the Civil War, and beyond. The author draws you in with beauty, brutality, heartache and the unyielding love Emma Garnet has for her family. I rarely re-read a book, but I could see myself picking this up again in a few years. I am definitely motivated to read more of Gibbons' work.
Book Concierge
Gibbons grabs you at the first sentence: "I did not mean to kill the nigger!"
Here she tells the tale of the daughter of a plantation owner from the Civil war to early 20th century.

Gibbons captures the reader, who lets go ever so reluctantly at the end of each novel. Her writing is to be treasured. Read ALL you can of her!
Kim
This was Gibbon's first historical fiction about the South during the Civil War. The story, told by a 70-year-old woman looking back at herself when she was a girl of 12, living on a plantation ruled by her bitterly angry father. It starts out when he "accidently" kills one of his slaves in anger. Short and poignant.
Katie
This book felt like a lot of work had been put in to modernize an old topic, but I'm not sure the two fit together very well. The writing was unclear and a little forced, and at times it felt like the author was using big or obscure words just to make the narrator sound uber educated, but it was really just uber annoying. The characters were also almost entirely one-dimensional, and I was pretty much done with the narrators' complaints about her oh so wicked father by about page three; unfortuna...more
Marleen
Once I got used to the fact that this story doesn’t stick to a chronological time-line (not even in the same chapter), I could start to enjoy it, more or less. This story is actually the reminiscing of an old woman on her last day of life on earth, looking back on her growing up with a tyrant of a father, a plantation owner, who clearly suffered of delusion and airs of grandeur. Her mother was a kind-hearted Southern Belle, who was equally affected by the verbal abuse of this cruel and complex m...more
Jodi
Dec 04, 2008 Jodi rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: women
Recommended to Jodi by: Carlisle Book Club
Shelves: book-club-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mandy
This book is a fictional autobiography of a southern woman, growing up on a plantation before the Civil War, and her marriage to a Yankee Doctor. Often, when reading old books, I find myself confused about why a character is so upset, or what on earth they are talking about, simply because the language and culture of the era in which it was written is so different from my own. This book succeeded (sometimes) in making me feel that way, which was very appropriate considering its antebellum voice....more
Kathryn
This book was assigned to us in my reading group, and I found it intensely depressing, while at the same time it was a REALLY easy read.

The story is told from the point of view of the main character, who is reminiscing about her life as she's about to pass away from old age. Yeah, you can tell just from that and the title that this will NOT be a happy book. Her life seems to be a series of tragic incidents (Horrible father, middle of the Civil War, first one person dies, then another person comm...more
Janis Harrington
Jul 07, 2013 Janis Harrington rated it 2 of 5 stars Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Janis by: no one
Emma Garnet narrates her life's story from living with her abusive, bigoted, Southern father, marrying Quincy Lowell of the Lowell family of Massachusetts, nursing the soldiers in her home, turned hospital, and in an actual hospital to her life in Boston after her husband's death to her return to Raleigh where she doled out most of her money and time to charities.

That summation sounds as if it should be an interesting book, but it isn't. I chose to read it because I loved Ellen Foster, also by K...more
Nd
Read this book over the course of a week-long Southern Culture and Food Tour. Though the tour didn't center on the Civil War, it covered so much Tennessee, Mississippi, & Louisiana countryside that it was a beautiful compliment to the admirable protagonist and, to my point of view, heroine of this book. Both her experiences and outlook were mesmerizing, and I'd like to think that there was someone just like her who lived during that time.
Kathleen S
In Kate Gibbons' "On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon", seventy year old Emma Garnet is looking back over her life. She was born in 1830 and is the daughter of a Virginia cotton plantation owner. Her father is a bully and her mother avoids tensions with headaches or by visiting friends. Emma Garnet no longer respects her father and he knows it and thus constantly berates her. She escapes by marrying young and moving to North Carolina. But we cannot escape our families and in that time and place...more
Carol
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book; found the story & characters interesting. I did not find the story difficult to follow as some reviewers mentioned. However, I felt sad when the story ended. I wasn't ready to let Emma Garnet go just yet.
Diane
This was a quick read and a book I enjoyed a great deal. It was written by Kaye Gibbons (of Ellen Foster fame) and contains Gibbon's usual courageous girl who suffers the loss of a mother. This heroine, Emma Garnet, is a wealthy southern girl during the mid nineteenth century. Her father, Sam Tate is a hateful, nasty man who represents the south and all that is wrong with it while her husband, Quincey Lowell, is the symbolic "north." He is the hard- working, kind, moral doctor. Clarice is the al...more
Ashley Webb
Initially, I found the book hard to follow, as the storyline jumps about. However, once I got used to reading it from the viewpoint of an old woman reminiscing, I was captivated. We don't reflect on our lives in perfect chronological order; one memory ties into another, which reminds you of another...so on and so forth. I found the story to be haunting and bittersweet, fascinating.

I suppose the fact that I live in the part of Raleigh where the story takes place helped as well; I walk the Oakwoo...more
Karenbike Patterson
This is one woman's life from the 1840s to the late 1800s. Mainly it is about the two pivotal men who shape her: her father and husband. Raised in the south by an abusive, bigoted, cruel father who domineers his family and slaves, Emma escapes to a husband who is just the opposite. Quincy is a doctor/surgeon who is compassionate, gentle, and loving. The story goes from antebellum Virginia, through the Civil War, and toward reconstruction. Emma sees her mother, father, sister, and trusted servant...more
Mary Johnson
Not her best book, but entertaining. Made me want to go back & read again some of her other books.
Miste
This book was mostly disappointing to me. It's about a woman who is born & raised on a plantation with a very domineering father. She "escapes" by marrying a doctor who comes from Boston but they settle in the south. It is set in the pre/post Civil War era. Husband of course doctors during the Civil War and she helps. I guess I was expecting something a little more gritty or real and this seemed like a stroll down Magnolia street. It's told in first person so it's almost like the teller just...more
Sherilyn
Kaye Gibbons is a favorite author of mine, but I couldn't abide the character of the narrator's father who presided over everything. It was a chore to have to meet up with him each day as I read.
Denise
Kaye Gibbons, the author of Ellen Foster, creates not one, but two heroines, in this poignant Civil War story...Emma, the pampered plantation daughter with a cruel father, and Clarice, the slave who actually makes things happen there. Together, they tell the tale of a South that is flawed, majestic, tragic, and doomed. Although it has received mixed reviews here on goodreads, anyone from the South, civil war buffs, or lovers of Gone With the Wind will enjoy this read.
Kristie

"And the gall, the gall, to pour blood over fields that women were keeping, over smokehouse floors where the farm poor boiled salt out of the dirt and tried to preserve measly hanks of meat for their children, over kitchen tables that were scrubbed by women who toiled when there was no need because there was nothing to spend the afternoon cooking. I still hold that it was a conflict perpetrated by rich men and fought by poor boys against hungry women and babies."

(regarding the American Civil War...more
Sandy
A Southern author visits the Nation's war and the war within her main character's family. The author's gift in painting word pictures was at a high point in this book. Her necessary use of some of the unpalatable vocabulary from the time in which her book was set, lent searing credibility to awfulness of bigotry: at that time and at any time. She painted a loathsome picture of the father of the girl who became the woman who told her story, her family's story and the greater story of a nation ren...more
Jayme
I love Kaye Gibbons' books and this one had all the makings of a good historical fiction novel, but somewhere along the way I became confused. I wasn't sure what the message was or how I was suppose to feel about Emma the protagonist in the story. There were two ideas running through the book the first centered on how tyrannical Emma's father was and the next was about the horror of the Civil War as viewed through Emma's eyes working in a Civil War hospital. Emma's father was over-the-top and ce...more
Fishfam
I cried when I read this book. And not because the story was amazing - which it was, but because I will never be able to write like Kaye Gibbons. Her use of language is amazing. Perhaps I'm not as widely read as others, but the way Gibbons puts words together send chills down my spine. I love an author who can convey a thought or an idea in the fewest words possible, but still manage to take my breath away with the beauty of a perfectly crafted sentence or phrase. I won't say anything about the...more
PJO
I loved this author's "Ellen Foster" and this drama is a good read too. It's dreamy in a way, through the use of language reminiscent of mid-1800s, with a Southern narrator looking back on her childhood and youth under the finger of her abusive and cunning pro-slavery father; then through her marriage to a humanist doctor/surgeon who values all lives, no matter the race or color. Parts are disturbing, and rightly so, as it encompasses plantation slavery as well as the slaughtering horror of the...more
Christa
I loved the first person narrative. Emma Garnet recounts the story of her life during the course of one afternoon. The bulk of the story takes place during the Civil War when she is married to her northern husband doctor and living in north carolina. Emma Garnet tries to overcome the terrorism inflicted on herself and family by her father. I recommend this book to anyone who likes stories of the old south, overcoming obstacles, and strong women. There are several strong women in this story to pe...more
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Samuel Tate 1 9 Aug 09, 2009 06:19PM  
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Kaye Gibbons was born in 1960 in Nash County, North Carolina, on Bend of the River Road. She attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying American and English literature. At twenty-six years old, she wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster. Praised as an extraordinary debut, Eudora Welty said that "the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and...more
More about Kaye Gibbons...
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“This has been such a glorious afternoon -- my heart would not weep if I did not live to see another.” 4 likes
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