LUNCH AND LIT – April 17th
Richmond, Virginia 1811. It’s the height of the winter social season, the General Assembly is in session, and many of Virginia’s gentleman planters, along with their wives and children, have made the long and arduous journey to the capital in hopes of whiling away the darkest days of the year. At the city’s only theater, the Charleston-based Placide & Green Company puts on two plays a night to meet the demand of a populace that’s done looking for enlightenment at the front of a church.
On the night after Christmas, the theater is packed with more than six hundred holiday revelers. In the third-floor boxes, sits newly-widowed Sally Henry Campbell, who is glad for any opportunity to relive the happy times she shared with her husband. One floor away, in the colored gallery, Cecily Patterson doesn’t give a whit about the play but is grateful for a four-hour reprieve from a life that has recently gone from bad to worse. Backstage, young stagehand Jack Gibson hopes that, if he can impress the theater’s managers, he’ll be offered a permanent job with the company. And on the other side of town, blacksmith Gilbert Hunt dreams of one day being able to bring his wife to the theater, but he’ll have to buy her freedom first.
When the theater goes up in flames in the middle of the performance, Sally, Cecily, Jack, and Gilbert make a series of split-second decisions that will not only affect their own lives but those of countless others. And in the days following the fire, as news of the disaster spreads across the United States, the paths of these four people will become forever intertwined.
Based on the true story of Richmond’s theater fire, The House Is On Fire offers proof that sometimes, in the midst of great tragedy, we are offered our most precious—and fleeting—chances at redemption.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Beanland is the author of the forthcoming novel, The House Is On Fire, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in April 2023. Her debut novel, Florence Adler Swims Forever, was selected as a book club pick by Barnes & Noble, a featured debut by Amazon, an Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association, and one of the best books of 2020 by USA Today. It was also named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and was recognized with the 2020 National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction (Greenberg Prize). To date, it has been published or is forthcoming in nine countries.
Rachel’s writing has also appeared in Lit Hub, Business Insider, Creative Nonfiction, and Broad Street, among other places. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and earned her MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Rachel lives in Richmond, Virginia with her family.
“Fully realized characters and gripping prose makes for an excellent, riveting novel that is highly recommended.” —Booklist, STARRED review
“Powerful… Beanland enlivens the smart and suspenseful narrative with fully developed protagonists that illuminate the community’s response to mass catastrophe. Readers will relish this.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“Propulsive… full of historical detail and full-blooded characters” —Shelf Awareness
“Propulsive. Rachel Beanland’s The House Is On Fire pulls you into a major moment in American history via the lives of four vividly drawn characters.”—Farah Ali, author of People Want to Live
“I could not turn the pages fast enough! An absolutely propulsive feat of storytelling! The House is On Fire reveals the little-known events of an American tragedy of Titanic proportion. In heart-stopping, intimate detail Beanland transports us directly into the souls of a truly diverse cast of Virginians whose varied means of survival during the theater fire and in its deftly-told aftermath, not only paint a rich portrait of 1800s America, but also hold up a timeless mirror to the racial disparity revealed by unexpected loss – and the means through which we must all come together to rebuild. Brava!”—Afia Atakora, author of Conjure Women
$27.99 – $32.99
7:30 am – 7:00 pm
7:30 am – 9:00 pm
9:00 am – 7:00 pm