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Extended Audio Sample On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon, by Kaye Gibbons Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,495 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kaye Gibbons Narrator: Polly Holliday Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 1998 ISBN: 9780743543156
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Like America in the mid-nineteenth century, Emma Garnet Tate is a woman at war with herself. Born to privilege on a James River plantation, she grows up increasingly aware that her family's prosperity is inextricably linked to the institution of slavery.

As she tells her story in 1900, she is still prey to her childhood, to the memories of a life that was made bearable in the main by the indomitable family servant Clarice. She secedes from the control of her overbearing father to marry Quincy Lowell, a member of the distinguished Boston family. Living in Raleigh on the eve of the Civil War, Emma Garnet and Quincy, with Clarice's constant help, create the ideal happy home.

When war destroys the rhythm of their days, Emma Garnet works alongside Quincy, an accomplished surgeon. As she assists him in the treatment of wounded soldiers, she comes to see the war as a "conflict perpetrated by rich men and fought by poor boys against hungry women and babies." After Appomattox, Emma Garnet sets out to take the exhausted Quincy home to Boston, where she begins the journey of her own reconstruction.

As in her five previous novels, Kaye Gibbons demonstrates her subtle mastery of detail and her unmistakable voice. Told in graceful cadences, On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon is a shimmering meditation on the divisions of the human heart.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A master storyteller…Margaret Mitchell’s blunderbuss epic…can’t hold a sweet-potato candle to these vivid pages.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “An occasion for even more accolades.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • “Haunting…a rare jewel...Kaye Gibbons has gone from being a wonderful, cascinating novelist to a national treasure.”

    San Antonio Express-News

  • “Gibbons writes with confidence and imagination about personalities and a time which she has made her own.”

    Times Literary Supplement (London)

  • “Gibbons has wrought a balanced and highly accessible novel...well constructed and provocative.”

    Times (London)

  • “Rich prose and period detail…[enhanced by] Holliday’s cadenced reading.”

    Library Journal

  • “YAs will find Emma Garnet, Maureen, Clarice, and Quincy to be fascinating and endearing characters whose flaws as well as strengths are revealed as the story unfolds. The author's picture of life in the Civil War South is vivid and unsentimental, and her characters are drawn with clarity and sympathy.”

    School Library Journal

  • A 1998 New York Times Notable Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Fishfam | 2/17/2014

    " 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 plot or the characters, you really must read this book for yourself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori | 2/16/2014

    " This is one of my favorite authors telling a story set during the Civil War. It is NOT an idealistic setting or view of the era. An excellent read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joclyn | 2/15/2014

    " An interesting read... a first hand look at a wealthy southern family before and during the Civil War. Although this was a work of fiction the prose and descriptions of events are vivid and believable. Worth a second read... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tammi | 2/12/2014

    " This is a great book. Kaye Gibbons' ability to infuse fact and fiction has gripped my attention. A great look into the complexities of relationships during one of the United States' dark past encompassing the slave era and the civil war. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Stacey | 1/26/2014

    " I started reading this book on the recommendation of a friend. About 100 pages into the book, I had to stop reading. Typically, I like the historical fiction genre, but this book was just extremely slow, boring, and depressing. It was not at all engaging. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking "When will this be over?" Personally, I hate to leave books unfinished, but I'll make an exception for this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lorraine | 1/24/2014

    " Emma Garnet Tate, on her last afternoon remembers her life. Set in the 1840's, the family owns slaves, her father is a tyrant, her mother sickly, a dysfunctional family of the times. There is much more to this story though, she marries a good man, a Doctor, and then the Civil War begins. This book had my full attention to the last page. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judy | 1/15/2014

    " A good description of the Civil War era. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Keri | 1/5/2014

    " Period piece! of course, again. And it involves the South: slavery, Southern Belles, mean men, dasterdly deads and the fight for something better. I see my own personal theme. That aside, I liked it. And if you like the above, you can too! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lauretta Allen | 1/2/2014

    " The only book I've read by Kaye Gibbons. If they're all like this one, I'll have to check them out. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lori | 12/31/2013

    " Old woman's recounting of her life in pre- and post Civil War South. Father was a mean bastard. Well-written, a little heavy and slow. Some slave dialect and antiquated idioms/words not found in dictionary. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jen Mendeck | 12/26/2013

    " OK, I gave up on this one. It just was not engaging me. Slow, I couldn't work up much sympathy for the protagonist, and I wasn't sure where the point was going. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenny | 12/21/2013

    " Another great book by Kaye Gibbons! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dana | 12/14/2013

    " Loved it. It was a great story set in the Civil War time, and right before and after. I love this author. Read anything by her you can get your hands on!! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Julie | 12/7/2013

    " The "hollar" dialect is hard to get through but it proves to be a good overall story...or maybe I'm just hoping. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet Arnold | 12/3/2013

    " Not a war story. Great female character of the time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jayna | 11/16/2013

    " I just love this author. Another great southern story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Kay | 11/10/2013

    " Beautifully written story of the South & of a lot of courageous people, black & white, northerners & southerners. There are some pretty awful folks, too, especially the storyteller's father. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Eileen | 8/9/2013

    " I usually like Kaye Gibbons - but I found the main charactor in the book to be a big pain. All about slavery. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jude | 8/2/2013

    " Hard stuff during the Civil War, but such good story telling & a fabulous woman. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shelly | 3/29/2013

    " Another fabulous book by Kaye Gibbons. I laughed, I cried. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 snishi | 2/8/2013

    " Well written; but towards the end, I was ready for the book to be over. The whole thing about the main character's father's past was dragged out a bit too long... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annette | 12/7/2012

    " I just love southern fiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patricia | 8/25/2012

    " About to die, an aged woman tells her story. The South with the travesty of slavery, revealing the best the worst. It is a study of morality. It is most tragic, yet poignant. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 8/12/2012

    " A love story, a historical romance and a look at the strength and survival skills of women in the old south done very well by Kaye Gibbons "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Laurie | 6/17/2012

    " It was a boring read. I got tired of reading about how awful her father was. Would not recommend this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jana Kaplan | 1/9/2012

    " Another book I wanted to like, but couldn't. This is the first Kaye Gibbons novel I did not like. Very disappointing. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kalleeandsam | 11/7/2011

    " This author threw every impressive word she could find from her dictionary and thesaurus into this book. I've tried to read it twice and gave up both times. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melissa | 7/20/2011

    " This book had a slow, southern rhythm. The idea that a good marriage can heal someone who had a tramatic upbring is well demonstrated without seeming cheesy or unreal. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Danielle | 7/11/2011

    " I liked this book, but I didn't love it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sam | 5/20/2011

    " This was not my favorite novel of Gibbons', but it is still definitely worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashlee | 3/26/2011

    " I'm sure I need to read this again. It was way over my head when I read it. I'm sure it was getting at something but I still have no idea what. But I liked it. I remember really liking it actually. I just can't remember why. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lorna | 3/3/2011

    " I found the book way too depressing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lauretta | 1/6/2011

    " The only book I've read by Kaye Gibbons. If they're all like this one, I'll have to check them out. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Donna | 1/2/2011

    " Unforgettable fiction. I just loved this book. Anyone who has read Gone with the Wind should also read this book as it ranks on top. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Louise | 12/28/2010

    " Read this book in 2001. Must have liked it very much, because I gave it 5 and a half stars. Must re-read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jayna | 12/16/2010

    " I just love this author. Another great southern story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 11/28/2010

    " i have decided that Kaye Gibbons is one of my favorite authors- her writing is so effortless "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lillian | 11/17/2010

    " This is a must read, as are all Gibbons' books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Emily | 9/27/2010

    " About a woman who grew up in the south at the time of the Civil War. She talked of the rift in her family, the clash of personalities in her life, about love, slavery and freedom, riches and poverty ... it was a superb tale, very realistic, and I very much enjoyed it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michelle | 9/9/2010

    " Got caught up in this one too. Enojoyed the narrative and the characters. Sad to finish it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brittany | 8/30/2010

    " I am actually really enjoying this book. It kinda jumps back and forth, but it makes for a good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mizmuzikmama | 8/18/2010

    " Details of a woman's life during the civil war. Facsinating. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jessi | 8/17/2010

    " I found it a little disconnected,its in the first person butyou never know how she is feeling or what her reaction is and after somthing happens she says "I cried all last night" Why? Why did you cry Why would you do any of it? It was fast but I did not enjoy any of it "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ashley | 8/3/2010

    " The third book I've read by Gibbons so far. I thought it was average compared to the other two, but definitely worth a read if you're a fan of hers! "

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