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A Long and Happy Life (A Long and Happy Life #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  667 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
On its initial publication in 1962, Eudora Welty said of A Long and Happy Life, "Reynolds Price is the most impressive new writer I've come across in a long time. His is a first-rate talent and we are lucky that he has started so young to write so well. Here is a fine novel."

From its dazzling opening page, which announced the appearance of a stylist of the first rank, to i
ebook, 208 pages
Published December 21st 1987 by Scribner (first published January 1962)
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Community Reviews

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Laura Leaney
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is the story of Rosacoke Mustian, a young woman living in rural North Carolina, who is as sensitive as any poet and as deep as a spring well. She loves a boy who does not understand or need her, nor does he call her by name very often. For Rosacokes, Wesley “hadn’t seen that every question she asked was aimed for the one she couldn’t ask, which was did he love her or didn’t he.” This seems to be the emotional crux of the plot , which is woven through scenes of country life that are vivid an ...more
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tender story but not an easy book to read. The late Reynolds Price writes in a lyrical Southern idiom where the run-on sentences, parenthetical expressions, and rich metaphors abound. So, he's not everybody's cuppa. I went to his readings in the late-1980's when he sat in a wheelchair from an illness. This heroine Rosacoake Mustian reminds me of the intrepid but sensitive Kate in RP's KATE VAIDEN, one of the best books I've read this year. The book is short. So, if you like romantic no ...more
John Arfwedson
Price is what used to be called a "writer's writer", which means (more or less) that his command of diction, style, voice, and such is high and his command of plot/narrative momentum is low. When I first read one of his novels nearly 40 years ago (and now recall little of it), I was dazzled by the skill set. In "A Long and Happy Life", he writes in the classic Southern hothouse ways: in love with place, with atmosphere, with eccentricity, with wanderingly offbeat characters, and, of course, very ...more
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This first novel by Reynolds Price uses a close-in, sympathetic third person omniscient narrator to tell the story of Rosacoke Mustian, a young girl from a back-woods North Carolina community, as she evolves into womanhood. What struck me as brilliant and most instructive for writers who look for examples to shape a novel--especially a short novel--are the set-piece scenes that build, block by block, the narrative arc: a funeral, a church picnic by a swimming hole, a letter (that runs for 12-pag ...more
Oct 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
To put the age of this novel in perspective, both "A Long and Happy Life" and Barack Obama were born about the same time. I find the fact that Obama is now POTUS, this novel and Obama's similar age, and this book finding its way to me at this moment in time all very ironic. Just wanted to clear the air up front.

While I'm clearing the air, I have to concede that I've read Mr. Price's most recent novel "The Good Priest's Son." I thought it competently written but it left me with a strange feeling
Suzanne Moore
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age
A long and happy life is something we all want, and it is foremost in Rosacoke's young mind when she thinks that's what Wesley can give her. Set in the rural mountains of North Carolina, a couple of years after WWII. Wesley comes back from the war and takes a job selling motorcycles. Rosacoke will risk her life by riding on the back of Wesley's bike, because she wants to know if he loves her. Rosacoke tells the story from her perspective full of poetic and descriptive detail. Wesley's aloofness ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had it not been for a book group discussion of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet and the suggestion by one of our members that this novel would make a good companion piece I might never have heard of this title or its author. But I'm so glad I did. This is Price's debut novel & it won the William Faulkner Award for a notable first novel. Some reviewers have compared Price's style to Faulkner's & while Price does occasionally write a sentence as long as a paragraph or a page and t ...more
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delight to re-read this gorgeous story of troubled young love set in a precisely-evoked rural North Carolina. Coming from nowhere near there, geographically or culturally, I remember finding this short novel exquisitely exotic when I read it at age 20-ish. It's probably what caused me to move to (well, not-rural but near-rural) South Carolina right after grad school, to *see*. Rosacoke Mustian waits six long months to determine whether her maybe-boyfriend Wesley Beavers is indeed hers. Si ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Another 50 cent bargain book, but how amazing!

Wonderful dive into the stifling world of a young woman in small town in the South. Fantastic feeling for the anguish and confusion surrounding her love for a carefree boyfriend who never provides what she needs.

Similar in some respects to "Lie Down in Darkness," though too brief to create monumental portrait of tragedy.

Had some problems with the ending. Found Christmas play a bit metaphorically heavy-handed and not completely effective. Though may
Jonathan Hiskes
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rosacoke Mustian lives a carefully observed life in Appalachian North Carolina, responding to the web of obligations of family, church, and an undeserving suitor. This is a novel for people who like novels, thick with the rhythms of rural life and the delightful cadences of a local dialect.
I can't recall where or when I first heard of Reynolds Price, but it was a long time ago. I was curious about this book, I remember that.

A Long and Happy Life was written in 1960-61, but it seems set further back than that. Price himself, was born in the 1933. I have always had a hard time with 'classic' books and this one was no exception. It's not a long story but especially at first the sentences just seemed long, they went on and on.

This is a melancholy love story, a time in the life of Rosa
At the moment that I am writing this review, Reynolds Price has just died. RIP. I read this for my Contemporary Liturature Class that I take every semester at the Institute of Adult Learning at my local community college. The theme for the Fall 2010 semester was Southern Fiction. As soon as I started to read this book and saw that the protagonist's name was Rosacoke Mustian, I knew I had read it before, probably in college a l-o-o-o-ng time ago, and probably for a course on Southern Fiction. How ...more
Modern Hermeneut
Jan 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of 20th century Southern fiction
Recommended to Modern Hermeneut by: My Dad
Comparisons with Faulkner and O'Connor are inevitable here. Like those authors, Price depicts the rural American South as a quasi-Biblical backdrop for weighty ruminations on love and death. But Price has a lighter touch than other authors writing in the same tradition; his characters tend to be emotionally vulnerable and down-to-earth in their ambitions. He doesn't overawe you with outlandish rogues or larger-than-life villains; only simple people, broken down by the world in simple ways (e.g., ...more
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written by Reynolds Price, A Long and Happy Life can be classified as a "coming of age" novel. It's a love story of a girl named Rosacoke trying to hold onto a boy named Wesley, the man she loves. Set in North Carolina the novel holds a classic small town feel. The heartbreaking life challenges that present themselves to Rosa and her family connect the novel to each reader individually.

I had to read this book for one of my English classes in college. I still haven't decided if I like this book o
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last night I sat down and read this book in two sittings, and it filled my mind with the smell of summer nights in North Carolina. That made me want to give it five stars. The ending pissed me off so much that I wanted to downgrade it to four stars. Then I admitted that if a book's plot points could involve me enough to actually be mad at it, then it deserves five stars.

I hadn't thought about Reynolds Price in years, not until his death not long ago; he was my Milton professor in college and I
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Price’s style is the sort of Southern writing I most enjoy: rambling, meandering, quirky, engaging, witty—mix in a lot of place names from my old stomping grounds and I can’t put his book down. Barely over 200 hundred pages, it takes longer than you’d think to read, because it’s easy to go off track in a Southern conversation. Rosacoke Baptiste has been carrying the torch for Wesley Beaver for 6 long years. Wesley was recently discharged from the Navy, but can’t give up the life and friends he h ...more
A slim (a few hours) read. The rural mid-50's North Carolina locale is believably rendered as an almost Medieval society, especially so in passages deliniating the racial divide of the late 1950's South before the Civil Rights marches and sit-ins. This is described in almost affectionate terms, as though Black and Whiteneighbors had neither antagonism or animosity. Protagonist Rosacoke Mustien is a young woman of limited education and no experience but possessed of a wealth of tangled emotions a ...more
Jul 31, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brian Grover
Well, the title here is certainly a misnomer. Set in rural North Carolina circa 1960 or so, this is a faithful documentation of the relatively boring, cheerless, hopeless lives those people must have lived. You can tell me this is poetic, or evocative, or "a moment of truth that is art" as the NY Times review blurb on the cover states. To me, it's just a story so far removed from what I know or am interested in, the only real value I took from it is that I know I don't want to read any more book ...more
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal, fiction, romance
In Reynolds Price's impressive debut, the contemplative and slow-burning mood of a first-person literary novel becomes the perfect counterpoint to a fierce and gaudy Southern romance. The protagonist, a teenage girl both world-weary and gleeful, can strike this balance perfectly. Price gives her all the willpower and intellectual energy he possibly can, then sets her loose in an imperfect world. What follows is a strange, uncomfortable, but all too realistic love story. Some of the writerly tric ...more
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should note that I read a Penguin paperback copy with no ISBN anywhere on it, which seems to be the first Penguin edition, published in 1964. Anyway, I picked this up on a whim from a market table (don't I always?) simply because the author was mentioned as a close friend by James Taylor on a concert DVD I saw once. It's an unusual name and it stuck in my mind. To the novel itself - I read it quite quickly, being drawn into the characters and the story. Reynolds portrays the anguish and confus ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the award winning and much praised first novel of Reynolds Price written in 1962. I loved the poetry of the writing and his ability to transport me to this place and time in rural NC. The story itself left me wondering about the behaviors of everybody in the book , even Rosacoke who was the most fully developed character. Perhaps it was two dimensional character development ; perhaps it was his intent . More like a long short story ; however i think my puzzlement about the story and char ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is all about the writing! From the stunning first sentence I was hooked, and savored the reading. The story line is small and simple in an utterly universal way....never small or simple when you are the one living it. The character development is deep and true -- Rosacoke, a young woman in rural North Carolina. Strong sense of place and time.
Book originally published in 1962 to much critical acclaim, his first book. Apparently he wrote many, though I'd never heard of him. His writing
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On page one I thougth I was reading Faulkner; then I noticed he had won the Faulkner Award! At other times I thought of Tennessee Williatms. Sometimes a sentence would be a page long and other times only three words. I had never even heard of Reynolds Price, but I can see why some think of him as a great Southern writer. He certainly captured the rural South of the 1950's. I was surprised at the ending: Ihad to go back and reread the last few pages to make sure I got it right. Glad Pam chose it ...more
Nov 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy and nicely written -- it has a distinctive voice and goes down well. Characters felt real. Setting felt real. The book seemed to glance off of the people: plenty of psychological delving, but it didn't feel exhausting, because usually just as someone would start thinking something, or almost say something --just as they were getting started -- something else would happen and the camera would have to move.
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
circled around to get this book. First heard of Reynolds Price from the pastor of our church. About a month ago heard a story about him on WUNC that prompted me to check him out.

His "A Long and Happy Life" was his first novel and met with great reaction. After having read it, I agree. Some parts of it seemed Faulkner'ish ... some of the same stream of conciousness writing style and setting in the rural South.

Going to the library to see what's next of his books to read.
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book published in 1962 this novel does not seem dated.
The insights into the characters seem fresh as today. The main character Rosacoke Mustian lives in a very small N Carolina town. The races live together and the opening of the book Rosacoke is going to the funeral of her friend (African American) who died in childbirth. In other Southern novels I have read the interaction between the races in professional, white woman and housekeeper etc. I totally enjoyed reading this book.
Ashley Campbell
Jul 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book, I actually had to read this and Main Street by Sinclair Lewis and write a 15-page paper comparing and contrasting them. Rosacoke, the protagonist, is an unforgettable character because she stands up for herself even though the small-town society in which she lives in disapproves of her decisions. She is a very authentic woman who women can look up to.
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My ongoing quest to buff up on my knowledge of Southern literature hits a speed bump. Despite the glowing story about Mr. Price, and this debut in particular, in a recent Oxford American, I just could not get into this. It seemed a short story that had been stretched and pulled into a novel. I am surely missing something. But this one was not for me.
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Reynolds Price was born in Macon, North Carolina in 1933. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University. He taught at Duke since 1958 and was James B. Duke Professor of English.

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 fi
More about Reynolds Price...

Other Books in the Series

A Long and Happy Life (2 books)
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