Category Archives: 1986


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

Nora Roberts. Treasures Lost, Treasures Found. New York: Silhouette Books, 1986.

Kate had always done what her father wanted.  Edwin Hardesty was an educator and he pushed Kate to excel in school.  Excel she did, becoming a professor of English at Yale when she was still in her twenties. Kate’s mother died when she was young so she had only her father’s values to guide her.  They lived together and traveled together, at least until recently.  Four years before this book opens, Kate and her father spent the summer on Ocracoke Island. Mr. Hardesty was searching for the remains of an English merchant ship that wrecked off the island in the eighteenth century.  To help her father in his work, Kate learned to dive.  Her diving instructor was a good-looking  local, Ky Silver.  Ky awakened in Kate feelings she didn’t know that she had, but Kate saw that Ky didn’t meet the standards her father had instilled in her, so she broke off the relationship and vowed never to return to Ocracoke.

As Treasures Lost, Treasures Found opens, Mr. Hardesty has just died.  As Kate sorts through his papers, she sees how much her father wanted to locate that shipwreck.  To complete his work, she makes herself return to Ocracoke.  She know that she will need Ky’s help.  But why would Ky help her now–out of charity, to enact some revenge, or because he still harbors hope that she will see that they were meant to be together?

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

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Coast, Hyde, Roberts, Nora, Romance/Relationship

Marianne Gingher. Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Everyone in the small town of Orfax, N.C. is astir when local rock-and-roller Bobby Rex hits the big time with his song “Pally Thompson.” The only one who isn’t thrilled about it is Pally Thompson, who insists that she didn’t go nearly as far with Bobby Rex as the song would suggest. Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the novel follows Pally’s attempts to redeem her reputation, but is in effect a rich portrait of adolescent small town life in the postwar South. Fictional Orfax is about twenty miles from Greensboro, the author’s hometown. Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit won the 1987 Sir Walter Raleigh award for the best work of fiction by a North Carolinian.

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

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Children & Young Adults, Gingher, Marianne, Guilford, Novels Set in Fictional Places