Mass market paperback. Signed by Welty on the title-page. Binding just a bit cocked; corners a little dog-eared. Bookseller Inventory #
Synopsis: The Optimist's Daughter is the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.
Review: The Optimist's Daughter is a compact and inward-looking little novel, a Pulitzer Prize winner that's slight of page yet big of heart. The optimist in question is 71-year-old Judge McKelva, who has come to a New Orleans hospital from Mount Salus, Mississippi, complaining of a "disturbance" in his vision. To his daughter, Laurel, it's as rare for him to admit "self-concern" as it is for him to be sick, and she immediately flies down from Chicago to be by his side. The subsequent operation on the judge's eye goes well, but the recovery does not. He lies still with both eyes heavily bandaged, growing ever more passive until finally--with some help from the shockingly vulgar Fay, his wife of two years--he simply dies. Together Fay and Laurel travel to Mount Salus to bury him, and the novel begins the inward spiral that leads Laurel to the moment when "all she had found had found her," when the "deepest spring in her heart had uncovered itself" and begins to flow again.
Not much actually happens in the rest of the book--Fay's low-rent relatives arrive for the funeral, a bird flies down the chimney and is trapped in the hall--and yet Welty manages to compress the richness of an entire life within its pages. This is a world, after all, in which a set of complex relationships can be conveyed by the phrase "I know his whole family" or by the criticism "When he brought her here to your house, she had very little idea of how to separate an egg." Does such a place exist anymore? It is vanishing even from this novel, and the personification of its vanishing is none other than Fay--petulant, graceless, childish, with neither the passion nor the imagination to love. Welty expends a lot of vindictive energy on Fay and her kin, who must be the most small-minded, mean-mouthed clan since the Snopeses hit Frenchman's Bend. There's more than just class snobbery at work here (though that surely comes into it too). As Welty sees it, they are a special historical tribe who exult in grieving because they have come to be good at it, and who seethe with resentment from the day they are born. They have come "out of all times of trouble, past or future--the great, interrelated family of those who never know the meaning of what has happened to them."
Fay belongs to the future, as she makes clear; it's Laurel who belongs to the past--Welty's own chosen territory. In her fine memoir, One Writer's Beginnings, Welty described the way art could shine a light back "as when your train makes a curve, showing that there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you on the way you've come." Here, in one of her most autobiographical works, the past joins seamlessly with the present in a masterful evocation of grief, memory, loss, and love. Beautifully written, moving but never mawkish, The Optimist's Daughter is Eudora Welty's greatest achievement--which is high praise indeed. --Mary Park
Title: The Optimist's Daughter
Publisher: Vintage / Random House
Publication Date: 1978
Book Condition: Very Good+
Book Description Vintage, 1972. Book Condition: Fair. 1st Vintage Books ed. Shows definite wear, and perhaps considerable marking on inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP3679643
Book Description Vintage, 1972. Book Condition: Good. 1st Vintage Books ed. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP2680001
Book Description Vintage, 1972. Book Condition: Good. 1st Vintage Books ed. Ships from Reno, NV. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP87472458
Book Description Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Ex-Library Book - will contain Library Markings. Light shelving wear with minimal damage to cover and bindings. Pages show minor use. Bookseller Inventory # G0394726677I3N10
Book Description Vintage. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Book has some visible wear on the binding, cover, pages. Bookseller Inventory # G0394726677I3N00
Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: Good. . Short gifter's inscription inside. Writing inside. Bookseller Inventory # B22B-00857
Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: Good. . Bookseller Inventory # M03G-01323
Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Bookseller Inventory # GOR008377883
Book Description Vintage. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: Good. 0394726677 Ships promptly. Bookseller Inventory # GHT1005COKR052316H1284
Book Description Vintage Books, Vancouver, Washington, U.S.A., 1978. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Dust Jacket Condition: No Dust Jacket as Issued. Book shows moderate wear/ spine tight/covers creased; moderate edge wear/ Friends of the Library stamp on title and or front page/ corners, spine hinge and spine creased/ several pages have underlining/ gift inscription on front page. Bookseller Inventory # 019634