cover image Kate Vaiden

Kate Vaiden

Reynolds Price, Price. Scribner Book Company, $16.95 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-689-11787-9

Price's new novel again is enhanced by a Southern setting, and his art as a writer transforms a rather cliched tale of an orphaned girl who never attains the capacity for love into a compelling story. From the vantage point of middle age, narrator Kate Vaiden looks back at her life, shattered at the age of 11 by the suicide-murder of her parents. She is raised by her loving aunt and uncle, who themselves have not been successful at parenting. Her cousin Swift is the serpent in Kate's future happiness. A true viper, he poisons the fond memory Kate has of her high school lover, a casualty in the first world war, and impels her to leave home. A succession of other emotional orphans become fellow wanderers through Kate's peripatetic existence. When she has a son out of wedlock, she lacks the maternal urge and abandons him to the same relatives who raised her. Thirty-five years later, she tries to discover his fate. Price's (The Source of Light) lyrical prose, blossoming with felicitous imagery and authentically grounded in the regional cadences of the characters' speech, holds the magic of a true raconteur. Though it tends toward melodrama and has some lapses in credibility, this is a touching, engrossing narrative by one of our most gifted writers. (June)