THE TONGUES OF ANGELS by Reynolds Price

THE TONGUES OF ANGELS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Price's recent novels are like mountain brooks: narrowly channelled, purling, fresh, direct. They are turned toward clarity and charity both. Here, Bridge Boatner is a famous, middle-aged painter who fashions a memoir out of one summer's work as a camp counselor in the Smokies during the early Fifties. The camp has its comedies, longueurs, natural beauty, and great opportunity for the naturally thankful Bridge to delve (through painting and Indian lore) into the glories of creation. But the most unexpected boon turns out to be a camper, Raphael Noren, 14 and set off from his callow peers by an angelic radiance of character. Ray's charisma is most palpable when he does the Indian Eagle Dance, gifted in its arcane motions. Bridge learns that Ray is everywhere else just as graceful. Yet he is someone reeling from horror: he's seen his mother raped and murdered; insomnia is his burden. But daily life, after what he's been through, seems no great problem for him. A snakebite from a rattler (and later worse) will change that for Ray, physically; but Bridge, even as a young man, can recognize an angel when he runs across one. If there's a problem in this generously warm monologue of a book, though, it's that the reader has to be so often reminded of Ray's election, rather than coming to share Bridge's opinion naturally. Ray is all nimbus--and a reader must trust in Bridge's narration more than is altogether comfortable. ""Too nearly special,"" burning ""too high on too little fuel""--that is what we hear about the boy/angel, but it's not a recognition we necessarily make ourselves. Graceful, clement work (with a lovely lack of satiric distance when writing about a boys' camp), but oddly unrepresentational.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
ISBN: 1615514457
Publisher: Atheneum