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A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing Paperback – June 24, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743238540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743238540
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist and poet Reynolds Price ( A Long and Happy Life ) here manages to turn his battle with spine cancer into a tough, sometimes funny, always moving and optimistic tale. His writing is eloquent enough to encompass his worst anguish; but his intellectual rigor, combined with religious convictions that never desert him, precludes self pity. Price now cheerfully calls himself "a certified gimp, in working order." He was first diagnosed in 1984 and during the next four years had surgery, suffered continual and severe pain and became permanently confined to a wheelchair: "My whole body felt caught in the threads of a giant hot screw and bolted inward to the point of screaming." He was heavily drugged and unable to function as either a writer or a friend. In 1987, he began treatment with hypnotist Patrick Logue of Duke University's psychiatric department with remarkable results: "I instantly knew I was free in a way I'd never felt before in my life, surely not for a moment of the past three years." Price learned from Logue to manage his pain without drugs and is writing again: fiction, essays, movie and TV scripts and the affecting poems here. His book is for all who suffer. Through it, with utter simplicity, threads a testament to the power of prayer, which Price calls "the first strong prop beneath my own collapse." He concludes "I've lead a mainly happy life," and, more astonishingly, "I know that this new life is better for me." What higher praise is there than to say we believe him?
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

While walking with Price across the Duke University campus in the spring of 1984, a colleague noticed Price's awkward gait. That incident marked the beginning of the novelist's four-year "collision with spinal cancer and paralysis." This remarkable memoir recalls the first surgery that failed to stop the tumor (which Price imagined as an "alien and deadly eel"), the radiation treatment that destroyed the nerves in his spine and the use of his legs, the religious vision promising healing, the pain-killing drugs overprescribed by unsympathetic doctors, and the friends and family who rallied around him. Price refused to succumb to self-pity, to ask the pointless tired old question of "Why me?" He writes, "The only answer is of course Why not ?" Now, clear of cancer though not cured, Price has a new life not only as a paraplegic but as a great writer whose creative energies have rebounded. Since his crisis, he has produced 14 books; this work features poems written during that period. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.
- Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1994 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

4.8 out of 5 stars
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It is very well written.
Amazon Customer
I recommend the book for everyone who wants to learn what life is like as an upper-middle class paraplegic.
F. Webb
The best compliment I can provide is I'm buying more copies to give to friends.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Paul D. Baxter on September 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One test of a good book is this: does it change the way you live your life or how you look at people. Reynolds Price, professor of English at Duke University, explores in this work a theme that hits everyone but that we don't often consider, or wish to consider, that is, the effect of major trauma on one's life and the life of one's friends, and perhaps everyone else around you.
RP tells the story of his own experience with spinal cancer in a bold, unflinching, but intensely personal way. One of the themes of the work is how profoundly a patient is affected by the attitudes and communication habits of medical care professionals. While he has tremendous praise for those who showed loving concern for him in his difficult times, he also wonders why some were so callous. For instance, he was informed of his tumor by two doctors while lying on a gurney in a crowded hallway. "What would those tow splendidly trained men have lost if they'd waited to play their trump til I was back in the private room for which Blue Cross was paying our mutual employer, Duke [University], a sizable mint in my behalf?"
Also wonderful in this book are his lessons/recommendation for those who have undergone similar tragedies such as this: "Generous people - true practical saints, some of them boring as root canals - are waiting to give you everything on Earth but your main want, which is simply THE PERSON YOU USED TO BE."
For me at least, this book helped change how I look at people, and I hope, will give me strength to deal with the traumas that will undoubtedly come someday to me and those I love.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Kathy LaTour on December 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
I was sitting at the edge of a lake when I read A Whole New Life. I had finished by own book about the cancer experience and begun traveling to talk about the psychosocial (read emotional) issues of healing from such an experience. And then I read the words "the best thing the radiologist could have said to me was the old Reynolds Price is dead, who do you want to be now." It summarized for me much of my searching for what I had tried to say about what had happend tome. My old life is gone, was over the day they found the lump. I had forged a new one, but wish that someone along the way had told me that the cancer journey means becoming someone different -- and I think better. Thanks Reynolds Price. I recommend your book every time I speak.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are interested in how a man copes with the precipitate fall from health to paraplegia and near-death in a horifyingly short time, read this book. If you are interested in how a person copes with agonizing, intractable pain, which a wide variety of medical treatments are unable to affect, read this book -- and learn about how biofeedback, to his surprise, enabled him to continue to endure his pain but ignore it. An inspiring book that shows what an extraordinary human spirit is capable of enduring and overcoming, if it must.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By lauri on April 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I took a long time to read this book so that I could think about all that Mr. Price said, there was so much--about being a person struck down with a "catastrophic" illness, what it is like to lose the ability to walk or do anything else with your legs, about having cancer and wondering when it is coming back, navigating a large medical complex, about being a different person because of it all, about embracing that different person rather than resisting him, about what is most important about caregivers, doctors, nurses and friends. (Mr. Price has awesome friends who basically would go to the ends of the earth for him). I learned so much and found Mr Price's writing to be so honest and earthy and insightful. i hated coming to the final chapter. but loved what it had to say. i would recommend this book to everyone, it is a wonderful look at one's own humanity and that of others. Please also read "Letter to a Man in the Fire." after you have read "A whole new life." I read them the other way around, but it is more meaningful to read "a whole new life" first. Every member of every medical discipline should read this book--nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and students of all disciplines. As an oncologist, I learned a lot about how patients feel and what they might need.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Stricken with spinal cancer in 1984 at 51, novelist Reynolds Price lived to tell the tale, and what a tale it is. With not an ounce of self-pity, Price recounts his diagnosis, treatment, continuous battle with pain and his "whole new life" as someone who now uses a wheelchair with brutal honesty and humor. If you have ever doubted for an instant that we as individuals are ultimately left to put our lives back together after a traumatic illness, Price's story should put that myth to rest. He alone with the help of hypnosis learned how to deal with constant pain, a subject that many of his doctors ignored.
Mr. Price gives every indication that he has a new and happy life. He certainly has gotten on with it and continues to turn out books almost as rapidly as Joyce Carol Oates. It is fortunate that someone with the literary stature of Price chose to write down his experience. This book, along with Abraham Vergese's book about his experience as a doctor treating AIDS patients in East Tennessee in the early years of the epidemic-- MY OWN COUNTRY-- should be required reading for all med students. If reading these two books has no effect on them, they should get out of medicine and into computers.
A WHOLE NEW LIFE is truly an amazing book and as good as anything Price has ever written. It may be his best effort. I cannot recommend it too highly.
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