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Whole New Life

Whole New Life

  • reading group guide
  • freshman reading
Reynolds Price has long been one of America's most acclaimed and accomplished men of letters. In A Whole New Life he presents his most intimate story yet -- a memoir as compelling as any work of the imagination.
In 1984, a large cancer was discovered in Price's spinal cord. Here, he recounts his battle to withstand and recover from this devastating affliction. He charts the first puzzling symptoms, three surgeries, the radiation that paralyzes his lower body, the occasionally comic trials of rehab, the steady rise of pain and reliance on drugs, and his discovery of biofeedback and hypnosis. Beyond the particulars, Price illuminates larger concerns, such as the gratitude he feels toward family and friends and (some) doctors, the abundant return of his powers as a writer, and the "now appalling, now astonishing grace of God." More than the portrait of one person in crisis, A Whole New Life offers honest insight, realistic encouragement, and authentic inspiration -- and stands as one of Price's crowning achievements.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743238540 | 
  • June 2003
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Chapter 1

So far it had been the best year of my life. In love and friendship I was lavishly endowed. I'd recently published a new play -- my twelfth book in the twenty-two years since my first, A Long and Happy Life. They'd all been received more generously than not by the nation's book journalists and buyers. I'd been steadily rewarded with understanding readers of many kinds; and I'd earned a sizable income from a brand of work that was mostly deep pleasure in the doing. For twenty-six years I'd also taught English literature and narrative writing at Duke University. The annual one semester's work with good students was not a... see more

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. Price's account of the medical community is often devastating, while differentiating the care provided by physicians from that of nurses and other therapists. Why are many physicians unable to respond to their patients in a human way?
  2. Does knowledge of the various stages of the grief process actually help when you are grieving? How can we use this knowledge to better help us deal with crises?
  3. How do we deal with both the physical and psychological pain in our lives? Is pain and suffering the result of some wrongdoing on the part of the sufferer?
  4. The author attempted to control the pain of cancer through the use of metaphors or pictorial language. How important do you think Price's ability to describe his condition was to his eventual recovery?
  5. The "whole new life" that Reynolds Price built was an aesthetic creation consisting of literature, poetry, music, art, humor and laughter. Do you think of these aesthetics as luxuries or as basic necessities of life? How can the aesthetic play a greater part in our own daily lives?
  6. Dreaming was crucial to Price's recovery. How do our dreams affect our lives? How can we learn to listen and respect our day dreams as well?
  7. Like the author, we all must rebuild our lives after tragedy strikes. How do we go about this process? What do we need to be told and by whom? What support do we need?
  8. Throughout his ordeal, Price is sust
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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.

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