The Last First Day (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

The atmosphere of fall in New England permeates this subtle novel about growing old while making sense of life. As the headmaster and wife of a small prep school reach the end of their usefulness, the reader rides the gentle waves of the deep feelings that surge between this couple as their relationship comes full circle. Strangely suspenseful yet comforting. — Karen Frank

Ruth, a woman entering her twilight years, reflects on her marriage to a compassionate prep school headmaster and the mysterious origins of her life with her father, a man of secrets and silences. A pivotal relationship with a wise psychiatrist lends insight to a life in which pain and love are jumbled together in untidy beauty. — Amy Palmer


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.

About the Author

Carrie Brown is the author of five novels and a collection of short stories. Awards she has received include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and, twice, the Library of Virginia Literary Award. Her short fiction has appeared in One Story, Glimmer Train, The Georgia Review, and The Oxford American. She lives with her husband, the writer John Gregory Brown, in Virginia, where she is distinguished visiting professor of creative writing at Hollins University.

Praise For…

"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

"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."--Carol Gladstein, 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 feats—to write compellingly, and convincingly, about human happiness. The Last First Day is marvelous.”
—Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Cove

Product Details
ISBN: 9780307908032
ISBN-10: 0307908038
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Publication Date: September 17th, 2013
Pages: 292
Language: English