On Occasion of My Last Afternoon

On Occasion of My Last Afternoon

by Kaye Gibbons

Anne Ferber: Having read Charms For the Easy Life a few years back and familiar with Ms Gibbons' strong women characters, I expected an enjoyable read. This is, however, much more: A memoir of a formidable woman remembering her remarkable life growing up in the South in the years leading up to the War Between the States and enduring that most egregious period of American history.

Emma Garnet Tate Lowell was unique, considering her surroundings and the fact that she was raised by a tyranical father and frail Southern mother, who could hardly protect her from his verbal abuse. She matured into a loving, compassionate and fair-minded young woman, married a doctor from a renowned Boston family and helped her husband tend the sick and mutilated Southern soldier boys in their home in North Carolina, where she raised her three children.

Although her father was a despicable slave owner, she always maintained feelings of love and empathy toward the servants and when able to, treated them as actual family members, ignoring the scorn and threats of ignorant neighbors and townspeople.

The actual day to day relationships between Emma and her husband,her children, her housekeeper, Clarice--who runs the household benevolently but with an iron fist--and her father, who remains totally irrational to the end, make this book a page-turner of breathtaking proportions.

Kaye Gibbons, a Southerner who knows her subject, provides deep insights into the diversity of thought of southern folks and helps Yankees like me to understand the rich traditions that they sought to protect.
Rating: ****

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