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Kate Vaiden Paperback – May 29, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (May 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684846942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684846941
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Familial dysfunction defines this Price effort--his first experiment with a first-person narrator in a full-length novel. Kate Vaiden is left parentless as a child when her father fatally shoots her mother and then himself. As an adult, Kate attests, "I'd caused their deaths." She isn't the only one in such a predicament: her mother's mother died in childbirth, and the father of her child was raised an orphan. Trapped in a self-defeating cycle, Kate forever seeks stability, only to flee when it gravitates within her reach. This rich Southern tale, which won a National Book Critics Award in 1986, is slathered with Christian themes of guilt, salvation, shame and, occasionally, triumph. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Price's new novel again is enhanced by a Southern setting, and his art as a writer transforms a rather cliched tale of an orphaned girl who never attains the capacity for love into a compelling story. From the vantage point of middle age, narrator Kate Vaiden looks back at her life, shattered at the age of 11 by the suicide-murder of her parents. She is raised by her loving aunt and uncle, who themselves have not been successful at parenting. Her cousin Swift is the serpent in Kate's future happiness. A true viper, he poisons the fond memory Kate has of her high school lover, a casualty in the first world war, and impels her to leave home. A succession of other emotional orphans become fellow wanderers through Kate's peripatetic existence. When she has a son out of wedlock, she lacks the maternal urge and abandons him to the same relatives who raised her. Thirty-five years later, she tries to discover his fate. Price's (The Source of Light) lyrical prose, blossoming with felicitous imagery and authentically grounded in the regional cadences of the characters' speech, holds the magic of a true raconteur. Though it tends toward melodrama and has some lapses in credibility, this is a touching, engrossing narrative by one of our most gifted writers.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Reynolds Price was born in Macon, North Carolina in 1933. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he has taught at Duke since 1958 and is now James B. Duke Professor of English.

His first short stories, and many later ones, are published in his Collected Stories. A Long and Happy Life was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award for a best first novel. Kate Vaiden was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Good Priest's Son in 2005 was his fourteenth novel. Among his thirty-seven volumes are further collections of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations. Price is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.

Customer Reviews

It is, foremost, a story, and that story is told with good pace.
R. M. Peterson
The book includes strong portrayals of this relationship which stays with Kate all her life.
Robin Friedman
I look with anticipation to the over 40 books and collections he wrote during his lifetime.
Cynthia K. Robertson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Although I am a high school English teacher and consider myself pretty well read, I had never heard of Price until one of my wife's friends, a San Francisco lawyer, shared her "secret" with me. I had succeeded in turning her on to James Agee's brilliant, prose poem, -A Death in the Family- (1956)and, in return, she gave me a paperback copy of -Kate Vaiden-.

Although this novel (which was awarded the National Book Critics Circle prize) is ostensibly about the entire "life" of the title character, its focus is on her youth, coming-of-age during WWII in rural N. Carolina (Price's home state), and later ramifications. What makes this book so memorable for me is Kate's voice. Price has written her story in first-person, and I found it hard to believe it was written by a man: his insights are so intuitive and so in tune with what I have learned about women's emotional lives (at age 38) that I was astonished. This book is one of the best examples I have ever encountered of narrative control; Price never falters as he slowly reveals Kate's tragic life. (Another example of brilliant first-person narration is James Dickey's _To the White Sea_, his last novel before his death a few months ago.)

Kate Vaiden is a character and a book well worth your time, so long as you are not concerned primarily with plotting. Although this book is character-oriented, it is not tedious; in fact, the plot is rather unusual, both in the characters Kate encounters in her journeys (both physical and emotional) and in the events which occur (sometimes to her, and sometimes caused by her).

_Kate Vaiden_ would be a particularly good book for a book group, especially a women's group (although, again, I'm a man and I think it's one of the best books I've read in years).
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Susan S. Platt on June 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was a mother's day gift from my daughter, and a first shot at Reynolds Price. I loved it. This author understands small places in the south. As a mother (and this is in the very first paragraphs of the novel), I just couldn't fathom how Kate Vaiden could have abandoned her child when he was just a baby, and "down for a nap." But Kate's life certainly explains it. Understanding why she abandons her child doesn't make it easy to forgive her. It's great that Reynold Price tells the story in the order he does, because you keep asking yourself, "how could she possibly have done such a thing, and how can she ever be redeemed?" The expressiveness in the dialogue is especially great. Kate Vaiden's story will linger for a long time; I feel better for having experienced it. And bravo to a male author who can write from a female protagonist's perspective like this.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "alisonmccants" on January 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Kate Vaiden is a wonderfully real character who is refreshing to hear from. Despite her somewhat tragic life, she remains real, witty, intimate with the reader, and honest with herself. The descriptions of Macon, North Carolina are so simple yet so eloquent and poignant. More important than the poetic imagery and the interesting storyline is the presentation of a woman who has lived and made mistakes (and plenty of them) and makes no excuses for her actions nor does she express regret for her life. She is a strong, honest, and, despite her faults, an admirable character at least in that she is more mature than half the population today; she needs not blame anyone else for her mistakes and she does not wallow either. Reynolds Price should be proud to have written such a character and simply for Kate's voice this is a book to be read, and in my case, enjoyed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A friend gave me this book, telling me it was one of her favorites -- I'd never heard of it, or of Reynolds Price, but it's definitely one of my favorites now! From beginning to end, I was absolutely in thrall to Kate and her life, her quiet calmness and path through life. I was impelled onwards by the desire to know what came next, what she would do next.
Kate is not entirely believable, even given the conventions of fiction and a little poetic license - she is a little TOO self-directed and unswayed by others, and the characterization of her sexuality is curiously flat -- what was intended perhaps as the reticence of the era comes across as an absence of passion, even for Gaston.
The writing and characterizations, the subtlety and flamboyance (two qualities not often combined) of the prose and dialogue were an immense pleasure to read and to hear in my mind's ear. In the grand tradition of Southern novelists, Reynolds Price captures not just Kate's life but also the ambience of small-town families and a peculiar live-and-let-live attitude that comes with people being simultaneously crammed together and kept apart.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth VINE VOICE on July 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am a big fan of southern fiction and enjoyed Price's book quite a bit. I read it in about a week, reading right before I went to bed. It pulls you in and it is hard to put down, particularly because it isn't broken up into chapters so there aren't easy stopping points. I had a little bit of a hard time relating to Kate's decisions in the book, but I suppose that is often the mark of a good character-- she is not transparent and your every-day kind of person. I fully appriciated the ending which explains a lot that you wonder about throughout the book. I didn't mark it five stars because, although I enjoyed it, it certainly doesn't rank up there with *stand out* books that I would read again. I also see quite a bit of similarity in his writing, and always appriciate an author that can vary his or her style a bit more. Overall, however, worth the time.
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