Synopses & Reviews
Not since Reynolds Price's award-winning, bestselling novel Kate Vaiden
has he told a woman's story in her own voice. Roxanna Slade is this woman.
Roxanna begins her story on her twentieth birthday -- a day that introduces her to the harsh realities of adulthood and changes the course of her life forever. From this day on, Roxanna is quick to share with the reader the intimate details of ninety years of life in North Carolina. Her beguiling tale is one that boldly reflects the high and low moments in the development of the modern South and the nation as well as the inner strength of a woman possessed of a piercingly clear vision, forthright hungers and immense vitality.
About the Author
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.
Reading Group Guide
READING GROUP GUIDE
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- Discuss how Reynolds Price captures the voice of Roxanna Slade through his economical, yet expressive use of language; his ability, as a man, to recreate the voice and manner of a woman from a wholly different time; and RoxannaÕs use of anecdotes, tangents, and colorful phraseology. Identify other ways in which Price makes Roxanna's story so authentic, it is easy to forget it's fiction.
- Roxanna only knew Larkin for a few hours, yet she feels disloyal to him in marrying Palmer. Why is Roxanna so devoted to the memory of someone she knew so briefly? Do you think it's possible to form a more lasting bond with one person in a single day than you can form with another over the course of a lifetime? In the end, who was a more important influence on Roxanna's life: Larkin or Palmer? Discuss the different ways in which each one touched Roxanna's life.
- Compare the attitudes and character of Roxanna's mother, Muddie, to Olivia Slade. Who had a stronger hand in shaping the woman Roxanna becomes? Who do you think Roxanna respects more? What does Olivia teach Roxanna that she can not learn from her mother?
- Roxanna begins her story by asserting that she is by no means a saint. But later she says, "a saint by most folks' meaning is just a person who never blocks your path but grins and yields to your will." (106) Do you agree? By that definition, is Roxanna Slade a saint? Why or why not?
- Roxanna feels she is the one who must always stay strong when times are tough -- and proves it by keeping her composure for Ferny and the Slades after Larkin's death. Why does she feel this responsibility? Discuss how the men and women in Roxanna Slade respond differently to crisis. As a whole, who are stronger?
- Roxanna admits later in life that her love for Larkin was more infatuation than anything else. Do you agree? Is it possible it could have been more, given the short time they knew one another? Discuss how and why Roxanna transfers her affections to Palmer so quickly after Larkin's death. Do you think Roxanna married Palmer out of guilt? A sense of duty? Did she truly love Palmer when she married him, or did her love come later?
- Palmer Slade is portrayed as a decent, if somewhat stoic person, an ample provider, and a good husband, father, and man. But Palmer is also a highly flawed individual. Do you think Roxanna is blinded to these flaws by her love for Palmer, or does she simply forgive them -- and expect the reader to forgive them as well? Do you think Roxanna is too easy on Palmer -- or does his loyalty through her depression make up for his shortcomings?
- Roxanna says, "I was born too far back and have lived too long to lay out more secrets...than are strictly needed for the story I'm telling." (98) What does she mean? That she doesn't feel the need to tells us everything -- or that she'll tell us only what she wants us to hear? Do you think Roxanna tries to influence our reaction to her story? If so, do you think she's aware of it?
- At one point, Roxanna wonders if some memories are simply "delusions fed by hunger." (136) Is it possible that Roxanna unintentionally altered her memories at times because the truth was too painful? How would Roxanna's narrative have been different if she had told her story as the events occurred rather than at the end of her life? Discuss how our memories are affected by the passage of time. Is it possible for anyone to provide a truly honest and complete account of his or her own life?
- Roxanna talks about the insignificance of time and how the important moments of most people's lives make up only a few minutes combined throughout the years. She proves her belief in this theory by spending significant time recalling one event, and then glossing over other years with barely a word. How does this attitude shape the way Roxanna lives her life, and the way she constructs her life story? Does she question her role in the world less than she would if she looked for meaning at every moment?
- How and why do Roxanna and Mally maintain such separate lives while living under the same roof? Does this self-imposed separation reflect their employer/employee relationship? Their racial differences? Why does it take so long for them to address the issue of Mally's paternity? Did you find it surprising that both women could remain silent on the subject for so long?
- For his time, Palmer seems to have a fairly progressive attitude toward the black community. But in the end, he wrongs the two most important black people in his life: his daughter and his best friend. What does this say about his true feelings? Is he only comfortable in relationships with black people when he has the upper hand? Do you agree with Palmer's assertion that, on the issue of slavery, the South won the Civil War (227)?
- On the issue of race, Roxanna lumps herself in with the masses who contribute to the inequity in the world by remaining silent. Is she too hard on herself? Can one take a less than active approach in trying to make the world a better place and still be a good person?
- Throughout her life, Roxanna wonders if Fate and God are one and the same. What do you think? Are the many coincidences that occur throughout Roxanna Slade the result of one or the other -- or both? If not, who is orchestrating the events of RoxannaÕs life?