From the author of The Rope Walk, here is the story of a woman's life in its twilight, as she looks back on a harrowing childhood and on the unaccountable love and happiness that emerged from it.
Ruth has always stood firmly beside her upstanding, brilliant husband, Peter, the legendary chief of New England's Derry School for boys. The childless couple has a unique, passionate bond that grew out of Ruth's arrival on Peter's family's doorstep as a young girl orphaned by tragedy. And though sometimes frustrated by her role as lifelong helpmate, Ruth is awed by her good fortune in her life with Peter.
As the novel opens, we see the Derry School in all its glorious fall colors and witness the loosening of the aging Peter's grasp: he will soon have to retire, and Ruth is wondering what they will do in their old age, separated from the school into which they have poured everything, including their savings. The narrative takes us back through the years, revealing the explosive spark and joy between Ruth and Peter - undiminished now that they are in their seventies - and giving us a deeply felt portrait of a woman from a generation that quietly put individual dreams aside for the good of a partnership, and of the ongoing gift of the right man's love.
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"Starred Review. A beautiful piece of writing: bittersweet with nostalgia, surprisingly sensual and sharply nuanced in its depiction of the strains and rewards that shape any long marriage... A restrained yet emotionally powerful portrait of enduring love." - Kirkus Reviews
"Glancing at a paragraph or a page of Brown's torpid novel might give an impression of glinting pathos and well-rendered nostalgia, but, though well-written on a sentence-by-sentence level, it falls short as a whole." - Publishers Weekly
"Beautifully written, with deeply memorable characters, The Last First Day is a powerful examination of love across the years and a heartfelt story of the strength of unbreakable bonds." - Booklist
"Concessions have to be made for many things, but concessions made for love are the ones that live on in life and in literature. In a beautifully composed novel, Carrie Brown reminds us of the concessions made for love, of hope and fear shared and endured alone, of joy and sorrow as the undercurrents of life. This is an intimate novel to be relished and remembered." - Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
"In her wonderful new novel, Brown takes on those greatest of human mysteries: enduring love, the long marriage. There's pathos here, cause for wonder, reasons to believe." - Christopher Tilghman, author of The Right-Hand Shore and Mason's Retreat
"Brown has accomplished one of literature's most difficult featsto write compellingly, and convincingly, about human happiness. The Last First Day is marvelous." - Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Cove
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Carrie Brown is the author of five acclaimed novels - Rose's Garden, Lamb in Love, Confinement, The Hatbox Baby and The Rope Walk - as well as a collection of short stories, The House on Belle Isle. A sixth novel, The Last First Day, was be published by Pantheon Books in 2013.
She has won many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, The Great Lakes Book Award, and, twice, the Library of Virginia Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals including One Story, Glimmer Train, The Georgia Review, and The Oxford American. Her work has been translated into several languages, and she has appeared at literary festivals, libraries, bookstores, and colleges and universities across the country.
A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where she held a prestigious Henry Hoyns Fellowship, she has taught creative writing at Sweet Briar College, where she was the Margaret Banister Writer in Residence, at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where she was a visiting writer, and at summer conferences.
Carrie and her husband, the novelist John Gregory Brown, have spent their working lives writing and teaching side by side in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sweet Briar College, where John Gregory Brown directs the College's creative writing program.
They have published ten books between them and raised three children on the campus at Sweet Briar. Over the years, they have been fortunate to host many of the world's great writers at their home, Sanctuary Cottage, and to introduce those writers and their work to hundreds of students.
Carrie now serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at nearby Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, where she lives at the University and works with undergraduate and graduate students in the University's esteemed creative writing program. She and her husband travel between the two literary landscapes and enjoy the best of both worlds.
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