The Promise of Rest

The Promise of Rest

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.
  • Scribner | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684825106 | 
  • November 1996
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Reading Group Guide

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?
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About the Author

Reynolds Price
Photo Credit: Sara Barrett

Reynolds Price

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.