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by Reynolds Price

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-689-12110-5
Publisher: Atheneum

 Three beautifully crafted novella-length stories from Price, whose three very different central characters are all urgently concerned with one of the greatest questions of all-how ``to face the rest of a life,'' with all the uncertainties and hardships that that implies. In ``Fare to the Moon,'' Kayes Paschal, close to middle age, his marriage unraveling, and deeply in love with Leah, the niece of his grandmother's black cook, willingly goes off to fight in WW II when drafted. For the first time in his life he had found in Leah, who loves him for himself, a ``kind, intelligent person who fit against his mind and body, and chose to fit, in every way a sane human being would pray to find this side of death.'' In the next piece-which moves like a great epic quest, from epiphany to near tragedy and final triumphant resolution-returned soldier Whit Wade comes back finally from the ``dead,'' prepared to live ``For the Foreseeable Future.'' Badly wounded in the war, and haunted by the faces of those who died, Wade finds that this week of business travel through familiar haunts in North Carolina-in which he takes comfort from strangers and friends-provides the healing that enables him to return home to his wife an daughter, to ``go where they can use you.'' And in the final and shortest story, ``Back Before Day,'' football coach and loving father and husband Dean Walker, who yearns for perfect goodness and security, fearing that his wife might leave him for Clyde, an old lover, flees in the night with his young son. But this journey is also suffused with meaning and symbolism: Dean witnesses an accident involving a former pupil, learns that Clyde is terminally ill, and returns home, tired, but more able to accept the fragility of life ``that would be as strange as this dream, or any, though harder to bear.'' Sometimes Price is too intent on making his philosophical points, and the characters accordingly recede, but thoughtful and elegant writing like this is all too rare. Vintage Price.