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Until That Good Day: A Novel Paperback – July 17, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (July 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312290799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312290795
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,928,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Depression-era Louisiana provides the setting for the story of John Washington, a man whose family has successfully passed for white since Reconstruction. A salesman, he is happiest on the road. The death of his wife leaves him with two small daughters for whom he makes little accommodation except to leave them with his mother. Marriage to a young, self-indulgent woman brings with it her large and unruly family to provide support for the girls that their stepmother won't. But still his happiest days are spent traveling, and he is at peace only with Odessa, his black mistress and the only person who knows his secret. Ultimately, his successful life exacts a price from all involved. Kemper's first novel is filled with vivid descriptions and populated with wonderfully drawn characters, each telling part of the story in a distinct and clear voice. Reality is tempered with portentous dreams that add just a hint of bayou magic, which helps confirm this novel's place in the colorful southern tradition. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Praise for Marjorie Kemper and UNTIL THAT GOOD DAY

"Until That Good Day gave me great pleasure. It was a story and a voice that I looked forward to six nights running. Marjorie Kemper writes such lively and witty prose that delight invites you in -- and then you are caught up by a story that runs deeper and more powerfully with every chapter. Marjorie Kemper has a sense of history, a sense of humor and a sense of life."
--John Casey, author of Spartina

"Marjorie Kemper's first book has more points of view than a prism, an agreeable old Williams/Capote/McCullers lilt to it, and an unassuming, strong declarative power that gives the reader a very good feeling. Magnolias and miscegenation -- it's a bit of a romp."
--Padgett Powell, author of Edisto

"[Kemper] dispatches good people and beloved animals alike without undue schmaltz, and her observations can be as vinegary as Carolina barbecue. She can sum up characters with one beautifully offhand sentence . . . . can plot, her characters are a delight, and her prose is as simple and plain as good homemade biscuits. And as any Southern cook can tell you, good biscuits aren't that easy to make."
--Washington Post

"Kemper's first novel is filled with vivid descriptions and populated with wonderfully drawn characters, each telling part of the story in a distinct and clear voice. Reality is tempered with portentous dreams that add just a hint of bayou magic, which helps confirm this novel's place in the colorful southern tradition."
--Booklist

"An intriguing period piece that enables the audience to visualize life in the Lower Mississippi during the Depression. Marjorie Kemper provides a deep character study that shines on a way of life that feels almost ancient though it is only decades ago."
--Midwest Book Review

"The narrative voice, confident yet relaxed, is that of a good friend who dropped by to talk and sip iced tea."
--New Orleans Time-Picayune

"[E]very color and definitely flavorful. Kemper can write! Her metaphors are so fresh I found myself stepping from the story to admire them . . . [A] stunning piece of work and a sure-fire Oprah pick"
--The Raleigh News & Observer

"Interesting, well-drawn characters."
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Profound insight"
--Forbes Book Club

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sean Kara on September 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
This wonderful book is about John Washington, a man who does not fit any preconception, any pigeonhole. He is hero and anti-hero, he drives headlong through life, yet somehow sustains two separate lives. As he leads his fragmenting family into riches and ignores it into ruin, the story sinks and rises, sinks then rises again. A musical theme, Madame Butterfly, runs through the narrative. The structure is operatic, tragic. There are arias, duets, trios--asides are spoken in low voices. Memorable people and places, and stirring events flow in and out of story, yet the author's skill is such that the thread of the tale is never lost. You cannot wait to turn the page. I've recommended this amazing novel to everyone I know. I recommend it to you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on July 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
John Washington travels the entire Lower Mississippi Valley selling wares to small stores and is away from his Myrtle, Louisiana home most of the time. Thus, it is not surprising that he is on the road when his wife dies leaving him with two daughters, eight years old Clara and five years old Vivian.
About a year later, over the objection of his children especially the younger one, he remarries Antoinette Malone. His older child goes to a New Orleans school and his younger one moves in with his in-laws. Meanwhile, John continues traveling not just to make money but to see the love of his life Odessa, a black woman. However, she is not the only secret John keeps as he passes in white society by acting accordingly.
UNTIL THAT GOOD DAY is an intriguing period piece that enables the audience to visualize life in the Lower Mississippi during the Depression. The tale is told from different perspectives so that the audience gains a wider vision of the times. The characters are deep and John's dark secret is interesting as he hides it from most of his customers and his family. Only his beloved Odessa knows the truth. Though there is little action, Marjorie Kemper provides a deep character study that shines on a way of life that feels almost ancient though it is only seven decades ago.
Harriet Klausner
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on September 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Until That Good Day by Marjorie Kemper is another sorrowful tale of the "tragic mulatto" set in the depression-era South. In this story, we meet John Osceola Washington, a handsome, dashing traveling salesman, who is a seemingly devoted husband and father in the eyes of the residents of Myrtle, Louisiana. However, John, as his family before him, are light-skinned blacks who have lived as white citizens since Reconstruction. John has intentionally married white at the urging of his mother to keep their secret safe. The psychological pressure and societal restraints prevent him from pursuing his true love, a black woman, Odessa, whom he met on his trade route and has romanced for years. Odessa and a few other suspecting blacks see through John's façade and accept him unconditionally. The author forebodes that John's luck will hold until that good day when the proverbial dam of lies will break.
True to the formula, tragedy strikes John's home and his white wife, Della, dies leaving the care of his two daughters to John. He relies on support from his aged mother to care for the girls. Both she and the girls are miserable under this arrangement. Then when she passes unexpectedly, he quickly remarries a spoiled, selfish, young socialite with "ghost white" skin, Antoinette, who despises children and black people. More tragedy ensues and the truth eventually reveals itself (on that good day) in such an obvious event, and it is here we learn the proverbial lesson that people see what they want to see. The author blends this recurring theme of "turning a blind eye to the truth" in numerous storylines throughout the novel.
This novel is told from varying viewpoints including the two daughter's, Odessa's, Antoinette's, Emmy (the black maid), Gilbert (the gardener) and Antoinette's mother.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dxzenia on June 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Marjorie Kemper captures a sense of place, a sense of time, a sense of humor, and gives you unforgettable characters who will be with you the rest of your life, like it or not. Until That Good Day moves with a voice as original, as constant, and as strong as the Mississippi. Not only the perfect vacation read, it is the one book you will recommend and give for the rest of the year. I can hardly wait for her next novel!
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