On the Tobacco Coast: A Novel (Hardcover)

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The culmination of Christopher Tilghman's great Chesapeake saga, a story spanning four centuries of an American family.

It is the Fourth of July 2019, and the Mason family is gathering at their historic Chesapeake farm, Mason’s Retreat. It isn’t everyone’s favorite party, but Harry Mason has once again goaded his wife, Kate, and their children into hosting a celebratory dinner. Their oldest, Rosalie, is having trouble with her marriage; the youngest, Ethan, is in the throes of a fitful first relationship. In between, Eleanor despairs over her stalled novel, a fictionalized memoir of the wife of the first Mason settler who landed there in 1659.

Kate, recovering from a second round of chemotherapy, is at the center of this ritual of remembrance. Tart and candid, she asks her husband, “What crime against humanity did your family not commit on that land?” And so it is more or less inevitable that when the clan, joined by a cast of neighbors and cousins from France, sits down for dinner, the question of how they should think and feel about their past comes to the fore.

Told with irony and deep insight, On the Tobacco Coast is Christopher Tilghman’s concluding meditation on the themes of his novels about this ancestral monument: the pride and shame in its long history, the persistence of family stories, race and privilege, the enigmas and customs of regions. It is a reflects on the state of America today, with its battles with its own history and efforts to reckon with the wrongs of the past while looking forward to an uncertain, more just future.

About the Author

Christopher Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run, and four previous novels, including Thomas and Beal in the Midi, The Right-Hand Shore, and Mason’s Retreat, which recount the connected stories of the Mason and Bayly families. He is a professor of English at the University of Virginia and lives with his wife, the novelist Caroline Preston, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Centreville, Maryland.

Praise For…

"Elegant, boisterous, and moving." —Taylor Antrim, Vogue

"Tilghman concludes his Chesapeake Bay quartet (after Thomas and Beal in the Midi) with this understated yet consequential drama of an American family’s reckoning with its colonial heritage . . . A satisfying end to a rich saga." —Publishers Weekly

"A cleareyed look at what history has hidden." —Kirkus Reviews

"Tilghman’s four-volume chronicle of the Mason family, having spanned centuries and continents, ends, as it must, around a dinner table—a domestic idyll at which the ghosts of a brutal history, both national and familial, keep trying to pull up a chair. A moving capstone to one of the epic projects in recent American literature." —Jonathan Dee, author of Sugar Street

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374226060
ISBN-10: 0374226067
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English