(Masterpieces of American Literature)

This last work in Price’s trilogy A Great Circle, of which The Surface of Earth and The Source of Light are the other components, is easily understood by those who have not read the first two novels in the trilogy. The characters in these three novels consist of four generations of the Mayfield family. In The Promise of Rest, the family is in deep trouble.

Hutch Mayfield is a bisexual English professor at Duke University. His wife has left him, and he is now living through the final days of his son’s life. Wade Mayfield is dying from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which he contracted from Wyatt Bondurant, his lover of several years. Wade has conceived a child with Wyatt’s sister, Ivory. Wyatt is black. He scorned Wade’s family and eventually committed suicide. Hutch’s own homosexual experience makes him sympathetic toward his son and especially toward Wade’s condition, although he has a very different take on homosexual relations than Wade has had. Hutch cannot envision a gay relationship lasting as long as his son’s lasted. The rest that the book’s title promises is not Wade’s death, as one might superficially expect, but the rest that Hutch works toward achieving as he tries to make amends for his former bigoted racial attitudes and tries to pursue his own sexual activities with zeal, fervor, and a sense of self-acceptance.

Wade’s illness has brought into the open a subject...

(The entire section is 544 words.)