Kate Vaiden, which teems with orphans and murderous and suicidal generations—all the expected passions of a Price book —is...a forgiving, immensely readable story, set mainly in the early 1940's, almost light in feeling (although its tale of early death and frustrated passions is hardly frivolous). But the voice of Mr. Price's heroine blows like fresh air across the page.... Kate, like most of Mr. Price's creations, has to struggle under a doom not of her making, but she describes and then contrives a hedged escape from it with wit and resolution. She is feisty and full of self-knowledge, ''a real middle-sized white woman that has kept on going with strong eyes and teeth for fifty-seven years.
Rosellen Brown - New York Times Book Review
At once tender and frightening, lyrical and dramatic, this novel is the product of a storyteller working at the full height of his artistic powers, recapitulating with a new ease the themes of memory and familial love that have informed his work from the beginning.... Though Kate's story is a violent one in the best Southern Gothic tradition — the novel numbers at least half a dozen untimely deaths, as well as several stabbings — Mr. Price orchestrates it so convincingly that each event comes to feel like an inevitable act, a product equally of fate and temperament and will.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
Surely his finest work so far. A wise and wonderful story told by an artist at the peak of his powers...you will want to meet Kate Vaiden and get to know her. And in the end...you will want to stand up for Reynolds Price.
Chicago Tribune Book World
You won't hear many voices in your life that are as interesting as Kate Vaiden's.
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.
Kate Vaiden's story is set in Price's Macon, North Carolina, a small town where a young girl could walk alone safely because "There were killings and rapes but never by strangers, always family members.'' Kate gives an honest account of herself as a daughter, niece, young woman, and mother, inducing the reader to like her in spite of her flaws, which abound. The language is richhugging the recalcitrant black cook is like embracing "a tall thicket of polished broomsticks' 'but not ostentatious. Price has been labeled a "Southern writer," and he certainly is that, but it would be a shame if his audience were limited to those with an academic interest in Southern literature. He is a fine storyteller whose work may have its strongest appeal among Southerners, but librarians should make Kate Vaiden available to general readers everywhere. —Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, GA
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