cover image Tongues of Angels

Tongues of Angels

Reynolds Price. Scribner Book Company, $17.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12093-0

Reynolds again writes--with uneven success--about characters with spiritual essence and about the responsibilities of creative genius. Here, his narrator, middle-aged artist Bridge Boatner, reflects on an incident that occured 34 years ago, in the 1950s, when he was a college student working as a counselor at a boys' camp in North Carolina. Suffering from guilt at having failed his father before the older man's recent death (readers of Price's memoir, Clear Pictures , will recognize the autobiographical elements here), Bridge finds spiritual renewal in the camp traditions that celebrate the heritage of Native Americans. He is drawn to 14-year-old camper Rafe Noren, a gifted dancer who exhibits ``stretches of majesty'' in performing Indian ritual dances. Having established a special bond with the magnetic Rafe, Bridge later is guilt-stricken when the boy is bitten by a snake while he is awaiting Bridge's arrival at a meeting place. When he learns the horrible secret that scars Rafe's life, Bridge vows to earn the trust the recovering boy places in him. At the same time, Bridge dedicates himself to the fulfillment of his artistic talent. Overburdened with sappy dialogue and passages of high minded, too-fervent prose, the novel is redeemed by its insightful, affirmative ending, a summary of a fine philosophy of life. (May)