Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
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Week of December 2, 2019
The Commonplace Book | Read This! | Okra Picks | Southern Indie Bestsellers | Events
{Meeting your heroes with your mouth full.}
In which Ms. Cassandra King meets her hero with her mouth full of strawberry, Ms. Margaret Renkl evokes the strength of the women who came before her, her ladyship, the editor falls down the rabbit hole of her own family tree, and Ms. Joshilyn Jackson invents a world peopled entirely by cats.


Dearest Readers

"Every family history includes such stories of survival, of prevailing against great suffering and despair. Perhaps these family histories, small as they might be and utterly invisible to the world, hold the key to facing our larger worries, too, and showing the way through.." —Margaret Renkl


"Most of my childhood memories are happy. My dad hunted. Birds mostly, so whenever we go out and quail or dove is on the menu, I immediately order it because it tastes like my childhood. That makes me feel warm and content" —Joshilyn Jackson

Her ladyship, the editor, spent the Thanksgiving holidays visiting with her parents and perhaps inadvertently launched both her mother and father on a long, bewildering, and unintended journey by helping to start a family tree on one of those online genealogy websites. Everyone concerned was immediately plunged into a wonderland-world of swirling birth records, county marriage licenses, federal census data, and reprinted obituaries from which her ladyship has only just managed to disentangle herself with great difficulty.

There is a rather delightfully addictive quality to family trees. Not that one expects to find anybody famous (highly unlikely) or "royal" (certainly not, her ladyship's antecedents were Mennonite farmers). But there is something rather fantastic in discovering that one's great-great grand uncle was a grocer in Pennsylvania, or that a great-great grandfather spent a year or so in Brooklyn as a librarian.

It is the "story" of family that is interesting. The "how did we get here for there?" that makes up the bones of every plot in every novel: why did a great aunt get on a ship in La Havre bound for New York with her six children but no husband? Why did a great great uncle enlist to fight in the Civil War if the family was pacifist? Why did a grandmother shorten her name when she started working?

Two things that made it into her ladyship's "commonplace book" last week echoed this longing for family story: Jon Mayes interviewed Joshilyn Jackson (Never Have I Ever), who spoke about growing up in a military family that moved frequently. Lacking any real memories of a specific home place from when she was a child, Jackson says she made up her own: "My memories are tied to either taste and smell or to my own obsessions. I can tell you that around seven I had created a whole cat planet with a system of government and a religion and a huge rotating cast of characters."

Margaret Renkl (Late Migrations), on the other hand, has long memories, and carries the memories of her mothers and grandmothers as well, which she writes about in a beautiful essay, "Why I Wear Five Wedding Rings." Faced with a seemingly endless book tour and a crippling burden of stage fright, she remembers, "one day it finally dawned on me that their wedding rings would make the perfect talismans against worked."

Both Never Have I Ever and Late Migrations are both finalists for the Southern Book Prize. You can vote here at


Read independently, and shop local.

her ladyship, the editar
her ladyship, the editor
Lady Banks' Pick of the Week
Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
Excerpted noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.


Tell Me a Story

When Cassandra Met Pat

I'd just crammed a whole chocolate-covered strawberry into my mouth when I saw to my dismay that my friends were leading the stranger toward me. Mouth full of strawberry, I was unable to say a word when they introduced us. To this day, I can't settle the debate over who actually made the introductions, as each of my friends takes credit for it. Jake will swear to his dying day that he did, as do Bill and Loretta, so I figure all three of them must've spoken at once. All I remember for sure is this: when Loretta said "Hey girlfriend, I found Pat Conroy for you," I choked, swallowed, and coughed before blurting out, "Oh, God Almighty!"

Pat threw his head back and laughed a big, hearty laugh. "Not quite, but close enough."

" can't be Pat Conroy," I cried, flustered. "When I asked about you, they told me that you'd gone to take your father to the hotel."

Pat shrugged. "Yeah, I was walking out the door when the hostess stopped me. She found someone else to take Dad because she wanted me to make an announcement for her."

Fate, Pat would later say. That's how close we came to missing each other.

--Cassandra King Conroy, Tell Me a Story (William Morrow, 2019)

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Holiday Catalog Gift Guide

Books featured in store holiday gift catalogs across the South.

Shop small. Start here.



The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Matt Tavares
(Candlewick Press, 9781536201376, $17.99)
From the celebrated creator of Red and Lulu comes the story of a brave little doe who meets Santa and changes Christmas forever. Ages 4 to 8.


The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Sean Brock
(Artisan Publishers, 9781579657161, $40.00)
In the follow-up to the award-winning and bestselling Heritage, Brock writes the definitive guide to Southern cooking and teaches all the elements of this beloved cuisine



The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Lupita Nyong'o with illustrations by Vashti Harrison
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534425361, $17.99)
A powerful picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and beauty from within by the Academy Award-winning actress (12 Years a Slave and Black Panther). Ages 4 to 8.


The Deep by Rivers Solomon

All This Could Be Yours
Jami Attenberg
(Houghton Mifflin, 9780544824256, $26.00)
The critically acclaimed and New York Times-bestselling author delivers a timely exploration of what it means to be caught in the web of a toxic man who abused his power.


The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Call of the Wild and Free
Ainsley Arment
(HarperOne, 9780062916518, $29.99)
For parents considering home schooling, those in the trenches looking for inspiration, and those who want to enhance their kids' traditional educations, this resource offers advice, information, and positive encouragement.







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Read This! Southern Book Prize Finalists

What booksellers said when they placed their nominations. Place your vote at


The Gilded Wolves

Children's Finalist: The Gilded Wolves


Absolutely gorgeous, lush writing and every character will make you fall in love with them. The only problem with reading an ARC is the long wait for the sequel! - Rosie Dauval, One More Page, Arlington, VA

Roshana Chokshi's The Gilded Wolves is a delightful adventure through history as six young people, each with their own demons, chase their dreams, only to find the fate of society in the balance. Besides delving into each character's unique post and how their struggles inform their tenuous hopes for the future, the story also explores the bitterness of letting one's dream, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, go unrealized. Above all, Chokshi's cleverly built scavenger hunt encompassing history, math, science and magic makes it easy to fall in love with each word, as if were again our first time breathing. – Julia, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC


The Southern Lady Code

Nonfiction Finalist: The Southern Lady Code


I could relate so much to this book, saint of a husband, who doesn't complain about my tendency to hoard (books and such) and the honesty of the way southern women think and behave.  I am a southern woman who would like to think of herself as a New York modern woman.  – Lauren Zimmerman, The Writers Block Bookstore, Maitland, FL


Yes, this book of essays is absolutely hilarious and full of Southern witticisms and peculiarities, but it is also highly intelligent. I loved Helen Ellis's short story collection American Housewife and these essays dig into the wonder and weirdness of her real life with the same zeal. -- Johanna  Albrecht, McIntyre’s Books, Pittsboro, NC


The Dutch House

Fiction Finalist: The Dutch House


I wish I could give this a 1000's stars! I love Ann Patchett's books but this by far is my favorite of hers yet. The writing is magical and the story strong and breathtaking. Told over 5 decades we watch the young become old and listen to how their perspective changes and their hearts grow mellow. Who becomes  bitter?  Ann Patchett nails her observances of  closing ourselves off from an imagined hurt or opening ourselves up to new and wonderful experiences. – Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC


Dear Ann Patchett,
Some years ago, I wrote you a letter telling you about how I read Bel Canto aloud to my mother as she was recovering from eye surgery, and how much it meant to us to be so lifted up—she and I have spent our lives with books, and it’s always been via books that we have been our best selves to each other.
She’s pretty ancient now, and so it’s the perfect time for me to read The Dutch House, aloud to her. She could read it herself, but your novel—with its layers of what families do to each other: how they love one another, how they repeat mistakes, how they reach past the past, how they live in fear and fury and then, if they’re lucky, forgiveness (not the smarmy kind but instead the real kind)-- is the way I’ll link myself to her, my mother, here in her very old age. So: my thanks. – Erica Eisdorfer, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC


A loving portrait of two siblings and their intertwined lives following their mother's abandonment and their stepmother's ejection of them from their childhood home.  Sister and brother lean on each other through the years and learn the importance of forgiveness, in order to move forward in their lives.   – Wonderland Bookshop


More bookseller recommendations
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News of a literary nature

Never Have I Ever"I don’t have a lot of memory attached to place or even my own actual history. My memories are tied to either taste and smell or to my own obsessions. I can tell you that around seven I had created a whole cat planet with a system of government and a religion and a huge rotating cast of characters.

That said, most of my childhood memories are happy. My dad hunted. Birds mostly, so whenever we go out and quail or dove is on the menu, I immediately order it because it tastes like my childhood. That makes me feel warm and content."


keep reading: Jon Mayes interviews Joshilyn Jackson


Late Migrations"Seven years ago, in the hospital where my mother was suddenly dying, I took the wedding band from her finger and slipped it on my own. At first it was simply a way to keep the ring from being lost in the shock and tumult of unplanned grief. But I’ve continued to wear it, year after year, because it means what a wedding band is supposed to mean. Like the ring my husband gave me 31 years ago, it’s a reminder of love and fidelity — of my parents’ unshakable love for each other, but also of their love for me, as reliable as any immutable force."


keep reading: Margaret Renkl, Why I Wear Five Wedding Rings


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The Okra Picks: The Fall Season

Southern Independent booksellers have chosen the 2019 Fall Okra Picks – a collection of the best forthcoming Southern books of the season. Add a bit of tasty reading to your literary diet. Serve yourself a helping of Okra Picks.

"Cassandra King Conroy tells a compelling story of her courtship and marriage to Pat Conroy. As you can imagine, being with him was never boring, and Cassandra has the stories to prove it. Filled with laughter as well as tears, you will be carried through the ups and downs of Pat's life like the tidal current of Pat's beloved Battery Creek outside his Beaufort home. As hard as it is to read about Pat's sickness and death, Cassandra writes about it with compassion and love. Her words from the heart are truly beautiful. " —Olivia Gacka, Novel, Memphis, TN

Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat by Conroy Cassandra King ConroyBestselling author Cassandra King Conroy considers her life and the man she shared it with, paying tribute to her husband, Pat Conroy, the legendary figures of modern Southern literature.

Cassandra King was leading a quiet life as a professor, divorced "Sunday wife" of a preacher, and debut novelist when she met Pat Conroy.

Their friendship bloomed into a tentative, long-distance relationship. Pat and Cassandra ultimately married, ending Pat's long commutes from coastal South Carolina to her native Alabama. It was a union that would last eighteen years, until the beloved literary icon's death from pancreatic cancer in 2016.

In this poignant, intimate memoir, the woman he called King Ray looks back at her love affair with a natural-born storyteller whose lust for life was fueled by a passion for literature, food, and the Carolina Lowcountry that was his home. As she reflects on their relationship and the eighteen years they spent together, cut short by Pat's passing at seventy, Cassandra reveals how the marshlands of the South Carolina Lowcountry ultimately cast their spell on her, too, and how she came to understand the convivial, generous, funny, and wounded flesh-and-blood man beneath the legend—her husband, the original Prince of Tides.

William Morrow & Company | 9780062905628 | October 29, 2019

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Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending November 24. Books on the Southern Indie Bestseller List that are southern in nature or have been recently recommended by southern indie booksellers.


Southern Indie Bestsellers

See the full list here.
The Southern Book Prize | A SIBA Okra Pick
Special to the Southern List | Read This Next!
Printable versions (PDF): Hardcover | Paperback | Children's

1. The Dutch House
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062963673
2. The Starless Sea
Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385541213
3. The Water Dancer
Ta-Nehisi Coates, One World, $28, 9780399590597
4. The Guardians
John Grisham, Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385544184
5. Where the Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens, Putnam, $26, 9780735219090

1. A Warning
Anonymous, Twelve, $30, 9781538718469
2. The Body
Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $30, 9780385539302
3. Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown, $30, 9780316478526
4. Educated
Tara Westover, Random House, $28, 9780399590504
5. Blowout
Rachel Maddow, Crown, $30, 9780525575474
Special to the Southern List
 The Nickel Boys Colson Whitehead, Doubleday, $24.95,The Confession Club Elizabeth Berg, Random House, $26,Normal People Sally Rooney, Hogarth, $26,Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy Cassandra King Conroy, Morrow, $24.99,Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero Christopher McDougall, Knopf, $27.95,The Yellow House: A Memoir Sarah M. Broom, Grove Press, $26,Southern Women: More Than Stories of Innovators, Artists, and Icons Editors of Garden and Gun, Harper Wave, $32.5,All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr, Scribner, $17,Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout, Random House, $17,A Well-Behaved Woman Therese Anne Fowler, St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99,Girl, Woman, Other Bernardine Evaristo, Grove Press/Black Cat, $17,Tiny Love: The Complete Stories of Larry Brown Larry Brown, Algonquin Books, $18.95,Run Away Harlan Coben, Grand Central, $16.99,The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Southern Table Rick Bragg, Vintage, $17,Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim David Sedaris, Back Bay, $16,These Truths: A History of the United States Jill Lepore, Norton, $19.95,
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What's happening at Southern Indies across the South?
See the full calendar | Find a Southern Indie Bookstore near you.

One Clean Feather--an evening with Julia Caroline Knowlton  (author appearance) | Julia Caroline | 12/06/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Page 158 Books Presents Brian Kilmeade  (author appearance) | Brian Kilmeade | 12/06/2019, 06:30 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women--an evening with E. Patrick Johnson in conversation with Beverly Guy-Sheftall  (author appearance) | E. Patrick | 12/07/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Story Time with Finnegan  (author appearance) | 12/07/2019, 10:30 am | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Patti Callahan Henry - The Perfect Love Song: A Christmas Story  (author appearance) | Patti Callahan Henry | 12/3/2019, 5:00 PM | Alabama Booksmith | Homewood, AL

Marilee Eaves: Singing Out Loud: A Memoir of an Ex-Mardi Gras Queen  (author appearance) | Mariless Eaves | 12/3/2019, 6:00 PM | Garden District Book Shop | New Orleans, LA

BUILDING ON THE PAST: Saving Historic New Orleans  (author appearance) | Susan Lagnenhennig | 12/3/2019, 6:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Phil Keith signs All Blood Runs Red  (author appearance) | Phil Keith | 12/3/2019, 5:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Celebrating the Life of Oxford's Own Larry Brown  (author appearance) | Larry Brown | 12/3/2019, 5:30 PM | Square Books | Oxford, MS

Cassandra King Conroy presents Tell Me a Story  (author appearance) | Cassandra King Conroy | 12/3/2019, 3:30 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Virginia Kantra - Meg and Jo  (author appearance) | Virginia Kantra | 12/3/2019, 7:00 PM | Quail Ridge Books | Raleigh, NC

Andrew Lawler Author of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke  (author appearance) | Andrew Lawler | 12/3/2019, 11:00 AM | Litchfield Books | Pawleys Island, SC

Author event with Becky Powell author of Awful Beautiful Life  (author appearance) | Becky Powell | 12/3/2019, 6:30 PM | Parnassus Books | Nashville, TN

An Evening of Poetry w/ KB Ballentine and Linda Parsons  (author appearance) | K.B. Ballentine | 12/3/2019, 6:00 PM | Star Line Books | Chattanooga, TN

Peggy Wallace Kennedy - The Broken Road  (author appearance) | Peggy Wallace Kennedy | 12/4/2019, 7:00 PM | A Cappella Books | Atlanta, GA

David Sedaris  (author appearance) | David Sedaris | 12/4/2019, 7:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

An Evening with David Sedaris  (author appearance) | David Sedaris | 12/4/2019, 7:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

Amy Greene and Trent Thomson present Step Into the Circle: Writers in Modern Appalachia  (author appearance) | Amy Greene | 12/4/2019, 6:00 PM | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC

David Leo Rice in conversation with Jeff Jackson  (author appearance) | David Leo Rice | 12/4/2019, 7:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Cassandra King Conroy Book Talk and Signing  (author appearance) | Cassandra King Conroy | 12/4/2019, 6:00 PM | Fiction Addiction | Greenville, SC

Margaret Wilson Reckling: Woody Creek: Views From a Homestead  (author appearance) | Margaret Wilson Reckling | 12/5/2019, 6:00 PM | Garden District Book Shop | New Orleans, LA

Richard Sexton - ENIGMATIC STREAM: Industrial Landscapes of the Lower Mississippi River  (author appearance) | Richard Sexton | 12/5/2019, 6:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Roxana Robinson - Dawson's Fall  (author appearance) | Roxana Robinson | 12/5/2019, 7:00 PM | Quail Ridge Books | Raleigh, NC

Michael E. Hayworth with Satoshi's Ghost  (author appearance) | Michael E. Hayworth | 12/5/2019, 6:30 PM | Sunrise Books | High Point, NC

Scott Huler in Conversation with Andrew Waters  (author appearance) | Scott Huler | 12/5/2019, 6:00 PM | Hub City Books | Spartanburg, SC

Jami Attenberg  (author appearance) | Jami Attenburg | 12/6/2019, 6:00 PM | Books & Books at the Studios | Key West, FL

Jeff Lindsay Booksigning  (author appearance) | Jeff Lindsay | 12/6/2019, 7:00 PM | Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore | Delray Beach, FL

Kate DiCamillo Book Signing  (author appearance) | Katie DiCamillo | 12/6/2019, 6:30 PM | Writers Block Bookstore | Winter Park, FL

Kate DiCamillo Book Signing  (author appearance) | Katie DiCamillo | 12/6/2019, 6:30 PM | Writers Block Bookstore | Winter Park, FL

Author Event ~ Sarah Loudin Thomas   (author appearance) | Sarah Loud Thomas | 12/6/2019, 8:00 PM | Sassafras on Sutton | Black Mountain, NC

Salon@615 with Tomi Adeyemi, author of Children of Virtue and Vengeance and Children of Blood and Bone  (author appearance) | Tomi Adeyemi | 12/6/2019, 6:15 PM | Parnassus Books | Nashville, TN

Jeff Lindsay  (author appearance) | Jeff Lindsay | 12/7/2019, 7:00 PM | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Kate DiCamillo with Beverly, Right Here  (author appearance) | Katie DiCamillo | 12/7/2019, 2:00 PM | Midtown Reader | Tallahassee, FL

Sip, Shop, + Signing w, Elizabeth Tammi | The Weight Of A Soul  (author appearance) | Elizabeth Tammi | 12/7/2019, 4:00 PM | Brave and Kind Bookshop | Decatur, GA

Tomi Adeyemi Author Event!  (author appearance) | Tomi Adeyemi | 12/7/2019, 7:00 PM | Little Shop of Stories | Decatur, GA

Alice Rhea Mitchell signs Scooter Mouse Finds the Library  (author appearance) | Anna Mocikat | 12/7/2019, 10:00 AM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Lawrence Wells signs William Faulkner: The Cofield Collection  (author appearance) | Lawrence Wells | 12/7/2019, 1:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Everybody Says Meow! Author Reading  (author appearance) | Constance Lombardo | 12/7/2019, 2:00 PM | Firestorm Books & Coffee | Asheville, NC

Roxana Robinson, Dawson's Fall, in conversation with Jill McCorkle  (author appearance) | Roxana Robinson | 12/7/2019, 2:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Laurie Smithwick presents Gone Dogs: Tales of Dogs We've Loved  (author appearance) | Laurie Smithwick | 12/7/2019, 11:00 AM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Our Prince of Scribes author panel  (author appearance) | Jonathan Haupt | 12/7/2019, 2:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Daniel Johnson, Wilcopedia: A Comprehensive Guide to the Music of America's Best Band  (author appearance) | Daniel Johnson | 12/7/2019, 7:00 PM | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC

Booksigning with Kate Salley Palmer  (author appearance) | Kate Palmer | 12/7/2019, 3:00 PM | Books on Broad | Camden, SC

Pop Up Author: Bob Mandala  (author appearance) | Bob Mandala | 12/7/2019, 10:00 AM | M. Judson Booksellers | Greenville, SC

Author Event: with Lawrence Bechtel-A Partial Sun  (author appearance) | Lawrence Bechtel | 12/7/2019, 11:00 AM | Book No Further | Roanoke, VA

Alyssa Maxwell and Nancy J. Cohen Booksigning  (author appearance) | Alyssa Maxwell | 12/8/2019, 1:00 PM | Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore | Delray Beach, FL

Jelani M. Favors - Shelter in a Time of Storm  (author appearance) | Jelani Favors | 12/8/2019, 3:00 PM | A Cappella Books | Atlanta, GA

A Discussion with Michael Medved  (author appearance) | Michael Medved | 12/8/2019, 3:30 PM | Eagle Eye Book Shop | Decatur, GA

Christmas Story Time with Special Guest Jennifer L. Meyer!  (author appearance) | Jennifer Meyer | 12/8/2019, 2:00 PM | Little Shop of Stories | Decatur, GA

Jonathan Creasy presents Black Mountain Poems  (author appearance) | Jonathan Creasy | 12/8/2019, 3:00 PM | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC

Cooking School: Holiday Cocktail Party: Appetizers with Sheri Castle  (author appearance) | Sheri Castle | 12/8/2019, 3:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Dr. Brian King presents The Art of Taking it Easy  (author appearance) | Brian King | 12/8/2019, 7:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Caroline McAlister - Finding Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis and His Brother Warnie  (author appearance) | Caroline McAlister | 12/8/2019, 2:00 PM | Quail Ridge Books | Raleigh, NC

Phil M. Cohen, Nick Bones Underground  (author appearance)
Phil Cohen | 12/8/2019, 4:00 PM | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC

Authors Round the South |
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Lady Banks is sponsored by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Dr.| Asheville, NC 28805
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