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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Baker

"The House Is On Fire" Book Launch!

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Rachel Beanland, award-winning novelist and author of Florence Adler Swims Forever has taken on the Richmond Theater Fire of 1811 in her latest, much-anticipated novel. Released on April 4th, this book is SO GOOD. She was so conscientious about getting the history of Early Republic Richmond right and even found a person I hadn't run across: a female medical practitioner who "ministered to the wounded" in the aftermath and was thought to be part Native American. (I'm sorry I couldn't include her in my text!) Beanland takes four characters, based on real people, and weaves a story from their perspectives, culminating in a finale that forces them to make impossible decisions. Seriously, so good.

And her launch party? Amazing! Hosted at Historic Richmond Foundation's Monumental Church, the event featured fiddle playing (as a nod to renowned Richmond violinist Sy Gilliat), drinks (the proceeds went to HRF), and a book signing. I had the honor of introducing her. It's been wonderful to have someone to nerd out with about Richmond history who has become a dear friend. Who else would call to gossip with me about local drama from two hundred years ago?

Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy a gorgeous night and a rare tour of Monumental. The rickety stairs and narrow passage kept the crypt off limits, but Rachel did stop to remember the lives of the victims, who are buried in a mass grave below the floorboards. Above them for the past 200 years, Richmonders have worshipped, married, had funerals, performed plays, and, as we did on the 4th, remembered their story.

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