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In this stunning and fully independent conclusion to A Great Circle, Reynolds Price tells the complex, moving story of a man's return home to die of AIDS and of the unexpected effect that his arrival -- and his death -- has on his family.

Wade Mayfield's parents are separated, but for the remaining months of his life they and their friends come together to care for Wade with the love they can muster. They are unprepared, however, for the astonishing mystery Wade has prepared to reveal once he is gone -- a mystery that initiates the possible reunion of his parents and promises to continue the proud traditions of a complex, multiracial family.

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Discuss Price's literary style and voice in The Surface of Earth, The Source of Light, and The Promise of Rest, as well as his frequent use of correspondence between family members and friends. What is the author's purpose or purposes in using these letters?
  2. What common traits connect the male Mayfield characters -- Robinson, Forrest, Rob, Hutch, and Wade? What characterizes their father/son relationships? Is there a pattern which is repeated from generation to generations If so, what is it?
  3. In all three novels, Price's male characters are often without a mother. Forrest's mother dies when he is young. Rob feels his mother's absence while growing up. Hutch's mother dies in childbirth. Who does the mothering in Price's novels? For that matter, who does the fathering? Discuss the mark it leaves on the Mayfield men.
  4. In Price's novels marriage often does not work out. Robinson Mayfield leaves his wife and his children; Forrest Mayfield's marriage to Eva Kendal is over when she returns to her father's house; Rob's marriage to Rachel, perhaps the most successful of all, ends when Rachel dies in childbirth, and Hutch and Ann separate. What troubles these marriages? Does Price shed any light on the institution of marriages If so, how?
  5. Over the course of Price's three novels, how does the Mayfield family change? How do these changes reflect a changing America?
  6. We learn early on that Grainger is kin to the Mayfields. What does it mean to Grainger? What does it mean to the Mayfield men? How does this fact subtly affect and influence the story?
  7. Discuss the character of Grainger -- his role in the three novels, his role in the Mayfield family, his status as a man of mixed race. How does your perception of him change over time, especially in light of the civil rights movement, black consciousness, etc. ?
  8. Trace the gold ring's journey through the Mayfield family. What does the ring symbolize to the male characters who hold it, keep it, or give it away?
  9. How does Price treat the subject of homosexuality and AIDS in The Promise of Rest? Do Hutch's own homosexual affairs impact the larger story of Wade dying of AIDS? If so, in what way or ways?
  10. Though we never actually meet Wyatt Bondurant, he has a powerful presence in The Promise of Rest. Why did he hate Hutch and Ann so much that he separated them from their son? Is his hatred justified?
  11. How is Hutch affected by Wyatt's letter to Wade when he reads it? Is the letter fair? What awareness does Hutch gain about race by the end of The Promise of Rest?
  12. Discuss the sense of spirituality that pervades The Promise of Rest, particularly in the final chapter with the presence of Wyatt's ghost and the appearance of Raven.
  13. Wade dies with great dignity. How does he manage this? How do his family and friends help him do so?
Recommended Readings
Angels in America, Tony Kushner
At Home at the End of the World, Michael Cunningham
Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty
Dream Boy, Jim Grimsley
Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe
The Politics of Family and Other Essays, R. D. Laing
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Women in Love, D. H. Lawrence
Photo Credit: Sara Barrett

Reynolds Price (1933-2011) was born in Macon, North Carolina. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he taught at Duke beginning in 1958 and was the James B. Duke Professor of English at the time of his death. 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.

More books from this author: Reynolds Price