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Here, in a single volume for the first time, is the trilogy of novels in which Reynolds Price traces the paths of two families, the Mayfields and the Kendals, through nearly two centuries of American history -- the oldest character is born in 1815; the youngest in 1985. Though their aims and wanderings carry some of them to distant states and as far afield as Europe, both families are rooted in North Carolina and Virginia; and their eventually joined lives are enhanced and deeply shadowed by the racial complexities of their world. No other narrative has portrayed that entanglement -- nor the gifts and ravages of sexual hunger and family life -- more honestly and compellingly than "A Great Circle."
The narrative energy of the trilogy arises, however, simply from the dozens of men, women, and children whose memorable contentments, failures, and sacrifices weave a story that is as persuasive as any human drama. It is also the secret history of a nation in crisis -- from the becalmed aftermath of the Civil War, through the Great Depression and the wars of the twentieth century, to the struggles for racial and sexual equality, the devastations of the AIDS plague, the poised hopes of the third millennium, and a great deal more. In the final richness of its texture, it offers the joy implicit in all steady views of the world.
The critic Michael Kreyling has said, "Trilogies produced by American novelists in [the twentieth century] can scarcely match "A Great Circle's" sweep and finesse." Any reader in search of the ancient pleasures of wit and laughter, tragedy and recompense, and the healing surprises of pattern and harmony inherent in the broader reaches of narrative will find plentifulreward in a story which literally answers to all the meanings of the old word saga.
This combined edition contains a new preface by the author, a family tree, and an annotated list of major characters.
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