ROXANNA SLADE by Reynolds Price


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A lovingly detailed record of a long and seemingly modest life, given resonance by the prolific Price’s extraordinary language and his sharp eye for the subtle complexities of character (The Promise of Rest , 1995, etc.). Roxana Slade, born with the century, looks back from the near present over her long and (seemingly) uneventful life as a wife and mother in a small North Carolina town. While seeming to focus on the ups and downs of her marriage to the decent, somewhat stolid Palmer, and the lives of her son and daughter, she also creates a rich portrait of a community dragged reluctantly out of its venerable agricultural existence into the raucous modern world. She begins by loving Palmer’s younger brother, the handsome, flamboyant Larkin, until, in one of the tragedies that inevitably touch most lives, he dies in an accident. It’s only later that the quiet Palmer comes to her attention. Using a first-person narrative plays to Price’s strengths: Roxana’s language is frank, seemingly unadorned, but subtly colored both by a tart regional flavor and by a nicely idiosyncratic rhythm and pace. And her detailed portrait of an extended southern family over time reminds us of Price’s fascination with the decisive impact of the family, for good or ill, on individuals. There are appropriately dark scenes as well: Roxana, sinking into a bitter depression, briefly assaults her own daughter. And Palmer, though he is a devout and kindhearted figure, strikes his oldest friend in a fit of anger, blinding him in one eye. What emerges from Roxana’s unblinking recollections is a portrait of an affectionate woman who has learned to master her own anger, come to grips with her regrets, and who has drawn from the incidents of her life a hard-earned wisdom. Roxana is a memorable figure, and further indication of Price’s quiet, precise power as a novelist.

Pub Date: May 4th, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83292-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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