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On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,688 ratings  ·  215 reviews
Sprawling in its scope but heartbreakingly exact in its depiction of a family torn apart," On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon" is a magnificent novel in the great Southern tradition. In the year 1900--on the afternoon she suspects might be the last of her long, eventful life--Emma Garnet Tate Lowell sets down on paper what came before, determined to make an honest accoun ...more
Paperback, 273 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published June 1st 1998)
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3.76  · 
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 ·  2,688 ratings  ·  215 reviews

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Sally Ewan
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon has sat on my to-read pile for a while. Our library has an adult summer reading program, and one of the "rewards" we can earn is a free book. A summer or so ago, I was browsing the offerings and not finding anything that really rang my bell. Daughter #1 came across this one, suggested it might be good, and handed it to me. Just recently I did read it, and I'm glad I did. I found it to be wonderful!

As the book opens, our narrator, Emma, is a child who is traum
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Interesting and realistic quick read, but really sad. I think every single character died, and died painfully, except the protagonist (who is in her last afternoon).

I thought it was interesting how the protagonist seems so competent, but then feels totally helpless without her slaves, especially Clarice. She finds it very hard to learn to cook, remember to eat, manage the house, etc. without a slave. People today go through this struggle on a daily basis, but it's taken for granted that you man
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
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Cynthia Egbert
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
As usual, Kaye Gibbons writing was beautiful but I think I need to put aside books about war for a time. This was just too dark and hopeless for my taste. I do have a few quotes that I must share.

"Children see into the dark recesses of the soul. They are rarely fooled, seldom duped save at rummy and shell games."

"Without my brother, I would not have known to use books as a haven, a place to go when pain has invaded my citadel."

"Horace spoke that the end of literature is to instruct the mind and
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 18, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
"If we could not escape from horror into the realm of the bizarre, we would drown."

Gibbons' narrator, Emma Garnet, could not escape the realm of horror. Her harsh upbringing in the years prior to the Civil War were presided over by her tyrant and irrational father. She escapes by marrying her soul mate, a Northern educated doctor.

She sees those she loves most taken by death or war or both.

Ultimately, she does triumph by focusing on her good works.

Sometimes I felt that Emma was a bit insipid in
Ginny Thurston
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully-written and well-researched book; the author has an exquisite style of writing, and her descriptions are realistic and elegant at the same time. That said, she does not delve enough into the inner workings of many of her most interesting characters...only her wounded and disgusting father. The themes are powerful, and she strips away any glamour that one would associate with war...especially our very uncivil Civil War. The stream of consciousness style and flashback point o ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
My favorite book of all time is Gone With the Wind. In many ways, it glamorized the world of the rich in the South in the middle of the Civil War. This book provides a more realistic/authentic look at what life was like for Southern women left behind while their men faced the horrors of the war. It was a time of great suffering and deprivation. As Emma writes her memoir on what she believes could be her last afternoon, she shares her love, her heartbreak, her guilt, her strength as a daughter, s ...more
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the suggested read for an adult summer reading program from my local library. I'd never heard of it, or read anything by this author, but I liked historical fiction, so gave it a try. At first I had a hard time following her flow, but soon got into it and by the end, was loving her story of a woman who had a terrible father, but managed to escape his wrath and marry a wonderful doctor, who along with her, worked themselves crazy during the Civil War. I look forward to having a discussio ...more
Addie Watkins
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rosemarie Rung
I love Kay Gibbons and once her confusing overuse of 19th century language in the first third of the book slipped below the strength of her writing, the story became clearer and more profound, despite its predictability. The story is about Emma Garnet Tate, a girl with a tyrannical, maniacal father and a mother crushed by him. She finds love and a good man, but like many children of abuse, the weight is something that takes a lifetime to overcome.
Alecia D
Sep 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was slow and I didn't like the way it was told and the father is just so awful that I seriously had to start skimming whenever he was a part of the story. A good friend recommended it to me or I wouldn't have even finished it.
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
I love the rhythmic combination of story telling and reflection contained in this novel. I recommend this to men as well as women for the commentary on war and on our own faults as individual human beings. It doesn't preach; it does say it with all reality, tho. Take from it what you will.
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evocative of the times and often quite moving.
Mellanie C
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was fascinating, and I read it very quickly.
Gwen Valliere
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. I listened to the audio version, exquisitely read by Polly Holliday.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am on a kick to finish reading all of Kaye Gibbons's books now.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tough read.
Dawn Myers
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly not "Gone with the Wind" and I am pleased that it wasn't. A different viewpoint, beautifully written. Poignant and sensitive.
Loretta Cottone
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! This was a reread for me. I love Kaye Gibbons - and feel sad that she is no longer writing. Interesting details about the time of the civil war.
Kirsten Williams
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow - dark and disturbing, but powerfully written.
Cindy L
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Made it to page 30. The writing style was hard to follow.
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kaye-gibbons
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
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon 1 3 Jan 23, 2013 06:33PM  
Samuel Tate 1 10 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
“This has been such a glorious afternoon -- my heart would not weep if I did not live to see another.” 7 likes
“Like the servants, we, his children, were beneath him, and so we were left oftentimes standing with his lies in our hands like baffling presents, not knowing what we were to do with this collection of things, his words, whether they should be used or displayed or hidden like a broken toy in a corner of the nursery armoire." -- Emma Garnet on describing her father, page 2” 0 likes
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