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A Long and Happy Life: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Reynolds Price

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166371,708 (3.77)12
Member:shesinplainview
Title:A Long and Happy Life: A Novel
Authors:Reynolds Price
Info:Scribner (2009), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:NC Author, Southern

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A Long and Happy Life by Reynolds Price

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A wonderful, beautiful book about a young southern woman in love with a wandering, afraid to commit, man. Price's style is to die for. ( )
  shesinplainview | Nov 30, 2012 |
Rosacoke Mustian has been in love with Wesley Beavers since she spotted him in a pecan tree eight years ago. She has endured his stint in the U. S. Navy; and as Reynolds Price's 1961 debut novel A LONG AND HAPPY LIFE begins, Rosacoke is still in the dark as to Wesley's feelings about her as he prepares to take a job in Norfolk, Virginia selling motorcycles. Most of the rest of this near perfect short novel-- 195 pages--is about this young woman's search for love with a person who probably doesn't deserve her. Of course there is a whole passel of supporting characters in Price's story set in rural North Carolina in 1956.

Mr. Price gets all the details just right: from cherry Jello to Kool-Ade to the local church's Amen corner to horehound candy to a punch board (something I had not thought about in more years than I care to remember). Men get their hair cut at home by family members; and the church, of course, is central to these characters' lives regardless of how they live when they are not within its doors: whether it is an emotional African American funeral for the young Mildred and friend of Rosacoke, who died in childbirth (the opening scene of the novel) or the closing Christmas pageant in the white Delight Church where Rosacoke plays the Virgin Mary and Wesley is a less-than-enthusiastic Wise Man. One reader writes, " And how many times have I heard a well-meaning person say on the death of someone, "He is far better off," what the ancient Mr. Isaac tells Rosacoke's mother when her husband was killed. "

While this novel takes place in the time just after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and before Martin Luther King led the nonviolent movement for the rights of black people, when North Carolina and much of the rest of the American South would see all kinds of racial turmoil and violence, black people and white people, at least in Price's world, live together with a modicum of understanding.

The novel's beautiful title-- Price is a master at choosing them-- comes from a line from the movie "The Bridge on the River Kwai" when William Holden says, "Let me wish you a long and happy life." The final act for Rosacoke is to fall in love with the baby of Mildred--the baby that she holds in her arms during the Christmas pageant, as she whispers to the baby the answer she will give Wesley after the pageant--yes she will marry him.
1 vote Dottiehaase | Feb 23, 2011 |
From Terry Gross
  sueanne230 | Aug 9, 2010 |
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Just with his body and from inside like a snake, leaning that black motorcycle side to side, cutting in and out of the slow line of cars to get there first, staring due-north through goggles towards Mount Moriah and switching coon tails in everybody's face was Wesley Beavers, and laid against his back like sleep, spraddle-legged on the sheepskin seat behind him was Rosacoke Mustian who was maybe his girl and who had given up looking into the wind and trying to nod at every sad car in the line, and when he even speeded up and passed the truck (lent for the afternoon my Mr. Isaac Alston and driven by Sammy his man, hauling one pine box and one black boy dressed in all he could borrow, set up in a ladder-back chair with flowers banked round him and a foot on the box to steady it)--when he even passed that, Rosacoke said once into his back "Don't" and rested in humiliation, not thinking but with her hands on his hips for dear life and her white blouse blown out behind her like a banner in defeat.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 068911947X, Hardcover)

On its initial publication in 1962, Eudora Welty said of "A Long and Happy Life," "Reynolds Price is the most impressive new writer I've come across in a long time. His is a first-rate talent and we are lucky that he has started so young to write so well. Here is a fine novel."

From its dazzling opening page, which announced the appearance of a stylist of the first rank, to its moving close, this brief novel has charmed and captivated millions of readers since its publication twenty-five years ago and its subsequent translation into fifteen languages. On the triumphant publication of "Kate Vaiden," his most recent novel, in 1986, there was almost no review that -- praising the new book to the skies -- didn't also mention in glowing terms the reviewer's fond recollection of the marvelous first novel, the troubled love story of Rosacoke Mustian and Wesley Beavers and its beautifully evoked vision of rural North Carolina. It is a pleasure now to restore to print the clothbound edition of this truly enduring work as a companion volume to his brilliant book of essays, "A Common Room," published simultaneously.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:02 -0400)

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