THE SURFACE OF EARTH by Reynolds Price


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This is being presented as Reynolds Price's magnum opus on which he's spent several years; it is certainly his longest and it could easily take you a month to read it if you choose to do so. All the spotty talent of his early works has ceded to tradition--in part the tradition of the Southern Generational Miscegenational Novel--along with many of his earlier indelible concerns: the primal myth, the wish, the dream, the bloodstained memory. Price's characters are doomed to be bereft at birth. His history of two families joined and separated in a house ""that nurtured [its] miseries"" for two score years laments in an almost uninterrupted fashion the sins of the fathers and the unendurable sorrows of the mothers from the time that the grandmother of Eva Kendal died in childbirth and her husband then took his life. In time, little Eva will grow up to marry Forrest Mayfield--a marriage which doesn't last longer than her delivery of Rob, since Forrest goes off to search for his father, who had been ""niggering around,"" and for the ""light skinned"" grandson of one union. ""God help you"" is the envoi to Rob when he decides to marry Rachel, and there is a son by that marriage to carry on his long search for self. Beyond the burden of pain and secrecy which is handed down from generation to generation, there are other family ""leavings""--particularly the letters interwoven in the narrative here but also a coinbox, a doll, a ring, that reifies the everpresent past. . . ""it's there in you. . . it will rise up in time."" It does, it does, but will many people willingly assume the task of ""hearing [him] out""?

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1975
ISBN: 1615514376
Publisher: Atheneum