IN-PERSON: Rachel Beanland - "The House is on Fire" with Marjan Kamali
Rachel Beanland, author of Florence Adler Swims Forever, presents The House is on Fire, a masterful work of historical fiction about an incendiary tragedy that shocked a young nation and tore apart a community in a single night—told from the perspectives of four people whose actions during the inferno changed the course of history. Rachel will be in conversation with Marjan Kamali, author of The Stationary Shop.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
ABOUT THE MODERATOR
Marjan Kamali is the award-winning author of The Stationery Shop (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), a national bestseller, and Together Tea (EccoBooks/HarperCollins), a Massachusetts Book Award finalist. She is a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.
Kamali’s novels are published in translation in more than 20 languages (19 languages for The Stationery Shop and 8 languages for Together Tea). Her essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Literary Hub, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Kamali holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from New York University. Born in Turkey to Iranian parents, Kamali spent her childhood in Turkey, Iran, Germany, Kenya, and the U.S. She currently teaches creative writing at GrubStreet and lives in the Boston area with her family.