Category Archives: Price, Reynolds

Reynolds Price. Kate Vaiden. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Considering how I was soon to behave, I have to wonder if I ever really loved him. I’d shown most other human instincts till then. Why did mothering fail me?

At age 11, Kate Vaiden makes a vow to her mother Frances never to become a mother. In a sense, she never does. Although Kate gives birth at 17 to a son named Lee, she leaves him behind with her extended family. Forty years later, Kate begins to wonder what happened to Lee. If he is still alive and well, Lee is forty, and at Kate’s best estimation, he has made his way in the world without her. She believes it is unlikely that Lee would need or want her in his life at this point. For all intents and purposes, Kate kept good on her promise. By abandoning her son, it’s as if she never bore him at all. Yet there are questions hanging over her her, the first: Who is Lee Vaiden?

The second question traces back to Kate’s roots and a major turning point in her life: Who was Frances Bullock Vaiden? Kate’s parents, Frances Bullock and Dan Vaiden  met in 1925 and married soon after. Their union was tumultuous. Dan’s father was against the marriage. Although Dan was convinced that his father would grow to love Frances, he overestimated his father’s affections. The couple decided to escape to Greensboro for a fresh start. But the fresh start withered under their passions. As a child, Kate observed her father “burn” her mother with a “hot flow of words.”

Frances’ closeness with her family created a source of tension between her and Dan. When Frances’ nephew Traswell dies, she takes Kate home to Macon to attend the funeral, but Dan stays behind. After the funeral, Dan unexpectedly shows up in Macon. He arrives while Frances and another nephew have gone to Traswell’s grave. Dan drives to the cemetery, and without warning, shoots Frances and himself. Up to that point, Kate had believed that she had a happy childhood, irrespective of any strain between Frances and Dan.  Following her parent’s murder-suicide, she is left under the care of Frances’ sister Caroline and her husband in Macon. From there, the novel follows Kate from adolescence to middle-age. Kate struggles to form any sort of lasting commitment or attachment to another person. During her formative years, what Kate loved left her. As a young woman and adult, she becomes a quitter. Whenever things get serious, Kate bolts. Single and fifty-seven years old, she’s an eternal orphan.

Kate Vaiden is the story of Kate’s life, as told by Kate in hindsight. Parents, family, and home are contentious topics for Kate. Her residual questions about her mother and lingering questions about her son influence her life. In regard to Lee, Kate regrets that her “baby-making machinery works” but “when they made me, they left out the mothering part.” Price creates a flawed protagonist in Kate who is good at hurting others and has been hurt in turn. Despite all her imperfections, Kate’s engaging and entertaining voice smooths over her less attractive qualities and makes her situation more sympathetic. The novel earned Price, who was a novelist, poet, and English professor at Duke University, the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Guilford, Piedmont, Price, Reynolds, Wake, Warren

Price, Reynolds. Blue Calhoun. New York: Atheneum, 1992.

Blue Calhoun narrates the story of his adult years in Raleigh during the 1950s from the distance of old age.  He begins his story in his mid-thirties, when he is working at a store that sells sheet music and instruments.  One day at work, an old friend from school stops by the store with her daughter Luna, who is not much older than Blue’s daughter Madelyn.  At 16, Luna is a talented young musician, and her dark hair, good looks, and confidence catch Blue’s interest.  As the story unfolds, Blue has to grapple with his feelings for Luna and wanting to protect his wife and daughter.  Second and third chances can’t prevent how the reverberations of how Blue’s unfaithful actions will affect his family, including his granddaughter, for whom the story is narrated.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1992, Piedmont, Price, Reynolds, Wake

Reynolds Price. The Good Priest’s Son. New York: Scribner, 2005.

On September 11, 2001, Mabry Kincaid is flying home from a relaxing vacation in Italy when the terrorist attacks hit. Unable to return to his apartment in New York, he travels instead to his father’s house in the fictional town of Wells in eastern North Carolina. In the time he spends back at home, Mabry tries to reconcile his relationship with his ailing father and come to terms with his own past in North Carolina, which he thought he had escaped by moving to New York. In the midst of personal crises, and set against the chaos and tragedy in New York, there is also the compelling mystery of a painting which Mabry, an art dealer, has recently acquired and suspects to be a Van Gogh.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2005, Coastal Plain, Price, Reynolds

Reynolds Price. A Long and Happy Life. New York: Atheneum, 1962.

Price’s widely acclaimed first novel is the story of Rosacoke Mustian and her unshakable adoration for the rakish Wesley Beavers. Rosacoke’s patient and unselfish love appears wasted on Wesley, a motorcycle- riding skirt-chasing Navy veteran who simply seems too impatient to settle down. The setting in rural eastern North Carolina is carefully and lyrically described.

A Long and Happy Life won the 1962 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 1960-1969, 1962, Coastal Plain, Price, Reynolds, Warren