Published in 1975, The Surface of Earth is the monumental narrative that charts the slow, inextricable twining of the Mayfield and Kendal families. Set in the plain of North Carolina and the coast and hills of Virginia from 1903 to 1944, it chronicles the marriage of Forrest Mayfield and Eva Kendal, the hard birth of their son, Eva's return to her father after her mother's death, and the lives of two succeeding generations. The Surface of Earth is the work of one of America's supreme masters of fiction, a journey across time and the poignantly evoked America of the first half of our century that explores the mysterious topography of the powers of love, home, and identity. In his evocation of the hungers, defeats, and rewards of individuals in moments of dark solitude and radiant union, Price has created an enduring literary testament to the range of human life.
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(203mm x 127mm x 28mm)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
This is being presented as Reynolds Price's magnum opus on which he's spent several years; it is certainly his longest and it could easily take you a month to read it if you choose to do so. All the spotty talent of his early works has ceded to tradition - in part the tradition of the Southern Generational Miscegenational Novel - along with many of his earlier indelible concerns: the primal myth, the wish, the dream, the bloodstained memory. Price's characters are doomed to be bereft at birth. His history of two families joined and separated in a house "that nurtured [its] miseries" for two score years laments in an almost uninterrupted fashion the sins of the fathers and the unendurable sorrows of the mothers from the time that the grandmother of Eva Kendal died in childbirth and her husband then took his life. In time, little Eva will grow up to marry Forrest Mayfield - a marriage which doesn't last longer than her delivery of Rob, since Forrest goes off to search for his father, who had been "niggering around," and for the "light skinned" grandson of one union. "God help you" is the envoi to Rob when he decides to marry Rachel, and there is a son by that marriage to carry on his long search for self. Beyond the burden of pain and secrecy which is handed down from generation to generation, there are other family "leavings" - particularly the letters interwoven in the narrative here but also a coinbox, a doll, a ring, that reifies the everpresent past. . . "it's there in you. . . it will rise up in time." It does, it does, but will many people willingly assume the task of "hearing [him] out"? (Kirkus Reviews)
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