On the same night that 17-year-old Noble Norfleet loses his virginity to his Spanish teacher, his crazy mother puts an ice pick through the hearts of his two younger siblings and flees town. The time is the late '60s, and the place is semi-rural North Carolina, with all its racial baggage. Noble's father has long deserted the family, leaving Noble with no one to depend on but Hesta James, the Norfleet's loyal black maid. His doomed affair with Nita, his married teacher, presages the nature of much of his future love life. After his mother is found and arrested, he turns for solace to a fellatio-obsessed clergyman, Tom Landingham, then joins the army when Tom commits suicide, going to Vietnam as a medic. Back in the States, he becomes a nurse and meets the lovely, well-brought-up Fare Langston, who is nevertheless not a "prim stuck-up aristocrat." But things are not fated to work out with Fare, and Noble eventually discovers that you can go home again, with some mental breakdowns along the way. Reynolds Price, author of Kate Vaiden and Roxanna Slade, will read from his new novel (pictured above) at McIntyre's Fine Books & Things on July 20 at 11 a.m. Call 542-3030 for details.