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Since the publication of her groundbreaking collection, The Boys of My Youth, Jo Ann Beard has been heralded as a master of the autobiographical essay, a form that has recently gained popularity with the works of Leslie Jamison, Eula Biss, Esme Weijun Wang, and Roxane Gay, among others.

Now, Beard returns with nine new nonfiction stories in which she investigates love and betrayal, grief and survival in the precise, searingly personal language for which she is beloved.

In these nine essays, Beard captures both the quietly luminous moments of daily existence and those of life-and-death decision: a man jumps from a burning building to save his own life; a woman fights off a home invader with only a shovel; and in the title, novella-length story, the narrator at once confronts the last moments of a dear friend and the devastating betrayal of the man who has been her longtime companion.

With exquisite language and unflinching observation, Festival Days captures the pain and exhilaration of our human experience, and shows a seminal author at the pinnacle of her talent.