Kate Vaiden is an unusual book in that it has its base in a sensationalism that is almost melodramatic, yet its author has the skill to elevate the narrative above the level of sheer sensationalism into the realm of serious literature that deals with and presents universal truths. Before she was eighteen, Kate Vaiden, now a fifty-seven-year-old woman, had survived the murder of her mother by her father and his suicide, the accidental death of her favorite lover, the suicides of two of her lovers, the illegitimate birth of a son, and the anguish of giving him up. The basic story has the makings of a cheap, tawdry novel, but Price imbues it with dignity and shows nobility in its protagonist, Kate.
The telling of the narrative occurs in 1984, when Kate—like Price himself—was recuperating from cancer surgery. Her brush with death has made her determined to find the son she bore some forty years before. Facing pressures with which she was quite unequipped to deal, she had abandoned him when he was four months old. Her story unfolds as a justification, an explanation that will possibly help her child, Lee, to understand, possibly even to love, his natural mother. The story is also a step in Price’s quest to understand his own mother, a quest that is prevalent in Love and Work and that he deals with more overtly in Clear Pictures, his autobiography.
In the first scene of the novel, Kate has accompanied her mother, Frances, to the funeral of her cousin, Taswell Porter, who has been killed in a motorcycle crash. Dan, Kate’s father, does not want Frances to go to the funeral, and he stays home in Greensboro in a rage. The day afterward, however, he goes to...
(The entire section is 697 words.)