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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Kate Vaiden Paperback – May 29, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By A Customer 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
According to the cover of my edition of KATE VAIDEN, it won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1986. "The New York Times" obituary for Reynolds Price (he died last January) said the same thing. The website for the National Book Critics Circle, however, lists KATE VAIDEN as a finalist for 1986 and "A Summons to Memphis" by Peter Taylor as the winner. What's the explanation? Second-guessing at the National Book Critics Circle? Sloppiness?

From my perspective, KATE VAIDEN is a strong novel, well worth reading, but I don't quite see it as an award-winner. What most stands out is Kate Vaiden, who is a strong woman. (Midway through it, her worldly wise older cousin remarks, "Few people on earth are as strong as Kate Vaiden.") Kate is the voice of the novel, as it is written in the first person, telling the story of her rocky road from the time her parents were killed when she was eleven (in 1938) to the present (1984), as she battles cancer at age fifty-seven. Kate's voice is a very distinctive voice. But is it an authentic voice? That is one of the lightning-rod questions about the novel. Several female Amazon reviewers proclaim that Price's effort to write the novel from the perspective of a woman and with a woman's voice was a fraud and a failure. Yet many critics (mostly men) praised the novel for its woman's voice and perspective. As for me (a male), I believe that Kate's female PERSPECTIVE is true enough - though one thing she does in the novel (mentioned two paragraphs down) goes against the maternal instincts of most - but I don't quite find her VOICE authentic, albeit for reasons having nothing to do with male versus female.
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