With Only Twice I’ve Wished for Heaven, Dawn Turner Trice established herself as a powerful and unique new fiction writer with a first novel called "touching and memorable" by the New York Times. Now, with An Eighth of August, she delivers on the promise of her stunning debut with an eloquent, evocative novel about the strong ties and haunting memories that bind family and friends in a small town.
Since the late 1800s, Halley’s Landing has commemorated the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation with one of the grandest festivals in the Midwest. Year after year, celebrants come from near and far to show off their best clothes, cook up special dishes, and pay tribute to the rich heritage of the former slaves who settled the Illinois town, hoping to piece together a life. But along with stories of the good times come unbearably painful memories and long-buried resentments.
Narrated by a chorus of voices, An Eighth of August begins with the Sunday church services of the 1986 celebration, a year after a terrible tragedy rocked the people of this close-knit community. The festival provides the backdrop for a vividly moving story that weaves together the lives and voices of the residents of Halley’s Landing. We hear from strong-willed Flossie Jo Penticott and her estranged daughter, Sweet Alma, whose relationship has been torn apart by an unimaginable sorrow; Flossie’s scatterbrained sister-in-law Thelma and her salt-of-the-earth husband, Herbert, who remain steadfastly devoted despite life’s ups and downs; Aunt Cora, whose humor, generous spirit, and large home provide refuge for the weary; and May Ruth, an eccentric older white woman who fits in like any other family member.
As we grow to know and love these characters, we witness how this Emancipation Festival will offer up its own particular brand of freedom and herald a change in each of their lives. Like Gloria Naylor, Dawn Turner Trice draws us into a remarkable world in An Eighth of August and invites us to spend time with a group of extraordinary individuals who linger long after the story is complete.
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