Mabry Kincaid, a New York art conservator is flying home on September 11, 2001, when news comes to him on the plane of the attacks on the World Trade Center.  Unable to return to his apartment in the city, he decides to visit his aging father, an Episcopal priest, in his boyhood home in North Carolina. There he meets Audrey, an African-American seminary student in her forties, who has moved in to care for his disabled father.  In the ensuing weeks Mabry is led to reflect deeply not only on the fate of the country and of his career, but on how his father's apparently final illness compels him to come to new terms with their constrained relationship. The death of the brother Mabry always believed to be the favorite has left a painful chasm between father and son, made more so by his father's own admission of favoritism.

At the same time Mabry is coming to terms with his own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and with the grief he continues to process since his wife's death from cancer.  Audrey and her son bring a new dimension to the life of the household and a widened sense of family to the two men as they struggle to lay the past to rest and to accept the radical uncertainties of the personal and national future. One interesting subplot involves Mabry's discovery of what is reputed to be a minor, uncatalogued Van Gogh painting, covered by the work of another artist, that he has brought home for his employer, now dead, and his musings about what to do with this undocumented treasure.  The question remains open for symbolic reflection as he leaves it behind in North Carolina and returns to New York for a very different kind of life than the one he left. 


Several decades of fiction writing previous to this novel have put Price firmly among the most widely recognized American novelists.  His prose is sure and lyrical, his humor subtle, and his feel for the complex vicissitudes of grief and for people's strategies of survival-both the useful ones and the self-defeating graspings at false comfort-has a ring of authenticity.  Price's own remarkable story of living with spinal cancer, chronic pain, and partial paralysis certainly gives this story an empathetic depth that might be hard to achieve in quite the same way without the authority of personal experience (see A Whole New Life).  Mabry is a memorable and fully achieved character.  Audrey, who gets less page space, is memorable in her own right, and a strong voice in the spiritual dialogue that emerges, sometimes in actual dialogue, sometimes as subtext, in this story about "going on."



Place Published

New York



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