Cover image for An eighth of August : a novel
An eighth of August : a novel
Trice, Dawn Turner.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [2000]

Physical Description:
298 pages ; 22 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Library
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WithOnly 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 theNew York Times. Now, withAn 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 Augustbegins 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 inAn Eighth of Augustand invites us to spend time with a group of extraordinary individuals who linger long after the story is complete.

Author Notes

Dawn Turner Trice is an editor for the "Chicago Tribune." She lives in Monee, Illinois.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In Halley's Landing, a small Illinois town, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation has been celebrated on August 8 since the late 1880s. The festival is one of the grandest in the Midwest. Yet each year, along with the good times, there are painful memories, heartfelt confessions, and dark secrets. In 1986, the community has gathered to celebrate another festival one year after the unfortunate death of a young boy. Among the great cast are Aunt Cora, the outspoken family elder who provides refuge for those in need; Thelma, the wife, mother, and sister who has compassion yet difficulty dealing with others; Herbert, Thelma's husband; May Ruth, the older woman who visits year after year; Flossie, the unpredictable sister-in-law; and Sweet Alma, Flossie's daughter. What brings them back to Halley's Landing for this celebration is special and unique for each one of the characters; their past and perspective add flavor to the celebration and to their gathering. Trice's second novel, after the successful Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven (1997), will assuredly have commercial success. --Lillian Lewis

Publisher's Weekly Review

Appealing characters overpopulate Trice's (Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven) solid but top-heavy second novel. Each year in August, the small African-American town of Halley's Landing holds a festival to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. As longtime resident "Aunt" Cora Hoskins begins preparations in 1986, she is joined by Henry Gray and his wife, Thelma, whom Cora raised; Henry's sister Flossie Jo, who is coping with a divorce and is estranged from her pregnant teenage daughter, Sweet Alma; and May Ruth Morgan, an eccentric white woman who visits Cora each year to attend the festival. Sadly, this year's events also cause the celebrants to recall the untimely death of Flossie Jo's son, 11-year-old El, the year before: That tragedy is set in motion when a seedy visitor to town who calls himself Mr. Paul is unable to find a room, and is invited to stay with Cora. Befriended by El and his 16-year-old cousin Pepper, Mr. Paul betrays the family's trust with a heinous act. The episode deeply unnerves El, whose plan to punish the man goes awry, resulting in the fatal accident. Unable to forgive himself for his imagined complicity in El's death, Pepper's behavior becomes erratic and he lands in jail. Flossie Jo knows her absolution will assuage Pepper's guilt, but first she must contend with her daughter and resolve their dispute. More will happen before the festival closes, but at its end all are left with a sense of peace and relief. Each of the characters is well delineated, with interesting foibles and strengths, but the novel is too short to do justice to their stories; it feels uncomfortably dense with incidents, encounters and conversations. A streamlined cast and sharper focus would have strengthened this otherwise promising tale. 4-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In her second novel (following Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven), Trice offers a lively collection of voices from the Midwest town of Halley's Landing. Here, August 8 marks the annual festivities celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, honored on different dates in different communities depending on when word of the emancipation was received (hence, Juneteenth in Texas and elsewhere, as in Ralph Ellison's recent, posthumous Juneteenth). August 8 is a big community event that here serves as a means of revealing the stories of various characters, including Flossie Jo Penticott, whose estranged daughter Sweet Alma left for Chicago to live with her father after giving birth to El when she was a young teenager. We also meet Herbert and Thelma, whose long marriage endures despite difficulties, and Aunt Cora, who welcomes returning residents for the festivities. Trice writes very engaging dialog and creates a world that is both colorful and poignant. Recommended for public libraries and fiction collections everywhere.DAnn Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



J. Herbert Gray The 1986 Halley's Landing Emancipation Festival Sunday, August 3, 1986 From the start . . . From the very start, them women on the Mothers Board say they saw her coming up the shoulder of the road, half dressed and walking scatter-legged 'long the side that hugs the river. Them no-seeing women on Greater Faith's Mothers Board say they knowed it was her even when they was looking straight ahead up toward the pulpit at young Delaware Matthews, the assistant pastor, and she was merely caught up in their side glance. Them women say they knowed right off who it was just as soon as they saw all that pretty yellow coming toward the church. Yellow set 'gainst green countryside and the clear blue sky. 'Gainst newly laid black asphalt with a fresh white seam painted straight up the middle, so ain't no mistaking which side for heading east and which for heading west. One woman say yellow that pretty used to belong only to the sunflowers in the patch on the other side of town. But that was before Sis moved to Halley. Folk liked to intuit that women with skin that dark couldn't, or shouldn't, hold claim to such a vibrant color. But Flossie Jo never cared 'bout such particulars. Wore it without shame or sorrow, like she owned it and the sun, too; walked--when she wasn't walking scatter-legged--like she had wings and could show it off finer than any bird or butterfly of the same hue. Them women on the Mothers Board say they was standing right here in this front pew, looking out this window, when they saw her. Never mind that the day was hazy and you could hardly see for the heat waves making everything ripple and blur. Heat beating down from the sun and rising up from that black asphalt, meeting in the middle in a steamy crease. Them women say they saw her, never mind them black fringes on the window's awning. Them fringes always hang long like scrappy thin pickaninny braids and nearly block the view. Still, them women say them fringes wasn't making no difference that morning. Neither was their wide and cocked, colorful Sunday hats or their rheumatized joints or their bad feet, which taken together made them stand stooped over and made seeing straight even more of a chore. They say when they saw Sis coming toward the church, everything sorta moved out the way; sorta opened up or eased up to let her through. They remember the exact moment she deboarded the bus under the last of all them fine houses on the hill. They remember 'cause them propane cannons sounded, nearly jarring the deafness out of them. They even recall when she crossed the Jefferson bridge, officially entering the downtown, and not long after that, stepped under the WELCOME TO THE 1973 HALLEY'S LANDING EMANCIPATION FESTIVAL banner that stretched between the cornices of the old glass company and the taxi place. Them five women say by the time she made it halfway to the church and was hovering 'bout the Mercury Filling Station, they had done finished Communion--had gulped down double portions of that potent elderberry wine--and was up clapping and singing, swaying, though they couldn't recall the song. They did remember sorta that the choir was standing, too, and so was the young people up above in the loft area, and so was young Delaware and Pastor hisself--who, standing next to Delaware, always lost some of his handsomeness, what with that good-sized hole eating into his Afro. You noticed Pastor's hole only 'cause Delaware had a head full of that curly hair. And with Pastor's head and Delaware's head bowed over the empty Communion vials, Pastor's hole gaped wide open and shined, too, on account of the sweltering heat. So many people had done arrived for the goings-on that every seat in the sanctuary was filled to overflowing and everything running water: the walls, the floors, the pews, the people, and naturally, Pastor's head. At one point, them women say, the big fat organist grabbed their attention 'cause he jumped up from his bench and screamed hallelujah. The music fell off as he hot-footed it down the center aisle toward the rear of the sanctuary. He turned the corner, smacking into the last row of pews--pews that don't offer much in the way of comforts for sitting, let alone for smacking into them--and rolled back up toward the pulpit 'long the outside aisle by the windows. Them women was certain he ain't seen nothing outside that window, or 'round them fringes, or through the haze, what with his eyes squeezed shut the way they was, which explained why he smacked into them pews, bruising and welting up his stumpy legs. Windows may as well have been pushed down, showing off the stained glass, rather than propped open, beckoning a breeze. Especially since there was no breeze to speak of and the onliest thing coming in through those windows was a few of them forehead-kissing horseflies and, every now and then, a whiff of that good ol' barbecue pit smoke from the fairgrounds behind the church. Air was so thick and smelling so good that every time Pastor shook his tambourine and said "Somebody say Amen," you said "Amen" and tasted hot tangy sauce and soft white bread. Excerpted from An Eighth of August by Dawn Turner Trice All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.