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22

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A few years ago, when I worked at a bookshop, a customer and I got into a discussion about Kaye Gibbons. At the time, I had read only A Virtuous Woman, but she had read all of Gibbons’ books and praised each with an almost spiritual fervor. While I stood behind the cash register enjoying our lively conversation she told me I should go and get a copy of Ellen Foster off the shelf and read the first line. I thought I’d wait ’til she left, since spectators were gathering behind her, but before I could hesitate she barked, “Now!” Obediently, I walked over to the G’s, pulled out a copy, and read the first line to my audience. “When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.” Gibbons’ disciple was pleased. She had heard the words she demanded, and I was hooked. Kaye Gibbons reads from and signs copies of On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Frances McMillen)