THE PROMISE OF REST by Reynolds Price


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 The third in Price's epic Mayfield family saga: an unflinching, passionate portrayal of a dying son's last days and an elegy for a great, representative American family. Easily standing on its own, like The Surface of the Earth (1975) and The Source of Light (1981), this last of the trilogy focuses on 63-year-old Hutch Mayfield, an accomplished poet and an English professor at Duke. Wade, his only child, is ravaged by AIDS, but he doesn't call on Hutch until he is nearly blind. For the last several years, the son has been estranged from his parents, living in Manhattan with Wyatt, a young black man who had forced his lover to choose between him and the Mayfields--people he considered racists. Infected and failing himself, though, Wyatt has killed himself, leaving Wade in the care of Wyatt's overburdened sister. Now, in his son's last months, Hutch brings Wade back to North Carolina so that he can die comfortably and perhaps be reconciled with his family. Several underlying developments, however, complicate matters. Wade's mother, Ann, left her husband the year before, and now Hutch wants to shut her out of Wade's death, keeping his son all to himself. Another burden is the weight of Mayfield history, embodied by a half-black, 101-year-old cousin with a long memory, and by a white caretaker, a man who'd been Hutch's lover before he married Ann. While movingly penetrating the Mayfields' pain, Price boldly broadens his scope to encompass the stain of America's racial and sexual histories, weaving in themes of healing, redemption, and hope. Keen and clear, his elegiac prose is often astonishing in its direct and resonating power, recalling the most moving passages in Thomas Wolfe and James Agee while remaining distinctively modern in its sweep and subject matter. Powerful work that ensures the transcendence of a singular American voice.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80149-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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