The House is on Fire

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2021

Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, 1811. 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.

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