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The Member of the Wedding (edition 2004)

by Carson McCullers

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1,759264,006 (3.87)81
Member:paulepps
Title:The Member of the Wedding
Authors:Carson McCullers
Info:Mariner Books (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:20th century, american literature, coming of age, southern literature

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The Member of the Wedding: A Novel by Carson McCullers

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)

Coming-of-age tales remain among my favorite types of literature. In the past, I devoured them with insatiable hunger. But never in all my reading have I seen the loss of childhood described with such painstaking devastation as in The Member of the Wedding. McCullers lays out F. Jasmine's agonies before the reader in exquisite detail, many of them poured forth in molasses-stretched moments as F. Jasmine huddles around the kitchen table in the fading twilight with her cohorts Berenice and John Henry, both of whom she loves and loathes, in that special moody way of early adolescence.

Reading The Member of the Wedding made me physically ill at some points. It was as if I were reliving the shattering of my own youthful innocence under the merciless hammers we never see coming when we are young. The excruciation burned particularly hard while watching in my mind as F. Jasmine walked through the Blue Moon upstairs to that room. With my faith in humanity as it is, always resting on a twitchy teeter-totter, wavering between none and some, this scene slammed down hard on the none side, sending the hard wooden plank rushing up to collide with my chin. As I rubbed my throbbing jaw, I thought about how hard it is to grow up in this world, to remain unmarred by some flawed adult's selfish motives.

Though McCullers drags F. Jasmine through tragic circles, she leaves her in a tentative upswing at the end. This surprised me a little, and yet when I think about the last passages, I see more heartbreak and frustration ahead for her. For though she weathered a few brutal storms, she still lives very much in her own head. And I know what trouble that can bring, far into the years to come. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
I keep saying this, but then I keep not following my own advice: I have to stop reading books about annoying teenagers. So Frankie, the main character, was annoying, though her troubles and her lack of ability to name her affliction is certainly one that I could understand and somewhat relate to.

McCullers really captures the unending, slow, suffocating summer in the South, where there isn't much to do but to sit around and play cards in the kitchen and talk about the same things over and over again. She also captures the indescribable urgency that Frankie feels when her brother's wedding is announced. Perhaps what McCullers does best is to name this thing a thousand different things as Frankie tries to explain it to herself and the people around her, family and strangers alike.

The book follows the pattern of Frankie's existence, starting off slow, purposeless, and idle and slowly picking up speed as Frankie feels the pressure to break free of the cage she find herself in. McCullers speaks the sensibility and frame of mind of the people in a small town during the war without explaining anything but by just letting them exist, do, and talk. Everything about the story and the characters feel organic and though there aren't any surprises, the book is ultimately heartbreaking. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
Charming coming-of-age story. The primary reason I didn't give this 5 stars is that I found some aspects of Frankie's character unfathomable - her fear (terror) just didn't ring completely true to me. McCullers' theme of searching for connections & belonging is similar to those in her masterpiece [b:The Heart is a Lonely Hunter|37380|The Heart is a Lonely Hunter|Carson McCullers|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1168914678s/37380.jpg|860196] and her skillful dialogue again delights. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
This is one of those books I probably should reread because I was not much older than the protagonist when I first read it. I'm sure I would get a lot more out of it now with more life experience behind me. Then again if I reread everything I shall never finish the 1000 (or really 1070) books on the list! ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
I know I should at least give this 3 stars, or 4 stars. The prose was amazing as ever. But it was such a letdown, and I'm not feeling generous at the moment.

This is the story of Frankie Addams, a 12 year old girl at the end of the summer, about to attend her brother's wedding. I don't know about you, but I feel like Frankie was me when I was 12 years old. I was questioning my place in the world.
"She was afraid of these things that made her suddenly wonder who she was, and what she was going to be in the world, and why she was standing at that minute, seeing a light, or listening, or staring up into the sky: alone."
And Frankie, she did all sorts of things during her summer, but she couldn't help but feel that there was something missing. She was restless, and no matter what she did, it wasn't what she wanted to do. Then comes her brother and his fiance, and she falls in love with the couple. Finally, she sees this as an opportunity to leave her hometown and become a part of something, no longer alone.

I really liked Frankie's insights (see added quotes).
"There are all these people here I don't know by sight or by name. And we pass alongside each other and don't have any connection. And they don't know me and I don't know them. And now I'm leaving town and there are all these people I will never know."
Perhaps this is my favorite quote of them all, because this was exactly what I was contemplating a while back. There are so many people in the world, in my hometown there's at least a thousand, and I will never know most of them. It leaves a queer feeling, that I want to be connected to these people.

But to tell the truth, I thought this was a growing up story. If growing up meant being disillusioned, then Frankie grew up in a most disheartening way. I felt that the book stopped abruptly, and I'm not a fan of endings where things were going great, but then it didn't and it just stopped. It was a 150-pages book, and I don't know why McCullers would just end like that. It's like she was even more melancholic than when she wrote [b:The Heart is a Lonely Hunter|37380|The Heart is a Lonely Hunter|Carson McCullers|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1168914678s/37380.jpg|860196]. Look, I want to be inspired, not dejected. Killing off John Henry like that, and Frankie turning into plain Frances and just letting life pass her by. Where's the big epiphany? That life sucks? I was already aware of that.

And I guess my problem also lies in that I liked the melancholy that was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and by the time I read The Member of the Wedding I no longer wanted to read another melancholic novel. At least the former novel had redeeming qualities. The Member of the Wedding read too much like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, with only a "Mick Kelly" as the protagonist.

Sure, it's unfair to judge this book by its predecessor, but I can't help it. The Member of the Wedding is another novel about human isolation, and McCullers already succeeded with [b:The Heart is a Lonely Hunter|37380|The Heart is a Lonely Hunter|Carson McCullers|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1168914678s/37380.jpg|860196].
( )
  qquiet | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Frankie is the pawky, gawky heroine of Carson McCullers' slim (195-page) new novel—she calls it a novella. Unlike Novelist McCullers' earlier books (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye), which were well filled with the complex, morbid relationships of adults, The Member of the Wedding is a serious attempt to recapture that elusive moment when childhood melts into adolescence. The result is often touching, always strictly limited by the small scope of its small characters. Like childhood, it is full of incident but devoid of a clear plot; always working its way ahead, but always doubling back on itself; two-faced, two-minded. The soiled elbows of Frankie, the brat, keep showing below the sleeves of the orange satin bridal dress which F. Jasmine Addams, Esq. wears to her older brother's wedding.
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Elizabeth Ames
First words
It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old.
Quotations
“The world is certainly a small place,” she said.
“What makes you say that?”
“I mean sudden,” said Frankie. “The world is certainly a sudden place.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Berenice. “Sometimes sudden and sometimes slow.”
Frankie’s eyes were half closed, and to her own ears her voice sounded ragged, far away:
“To me it is sudden.”
That is the way it is when you are in love. Invariably. A thing known and not spoken.
Berenice began with the old same story that they had heard many times before. The story of her and Ludie Freeman. A long time ago.
“Now I am here to tell you I was happy. There was no human woman in all the world more happy than I was in them days,” she said. “And that includes everybody. You listening to me, John Henry? It includes all queens and millionaires and first ladies of the land. And I mean it includes people of all color. You hear me, Frankie? No human woman in all the world was happier than Berenice Sadie Brown.”
She had started with the old story of Ludie. And it began an afternoon in late Octorber almost twenty years ago. The story started at the place where first they met each other, in front of Camp Campbell’s Filling Station outside fo the city limits of the town. It was the time of the year when the leaves were turning and the countryside was smoky and autmn gray and gold. And the story went on from that first meeting to the wedding at the Welcome Ascension Church in Sugarville. And then on through the years with the two of them together. The house with brick front steps and the glass window son the corner of Barrow Street. The Christmas of the fox fur, and the June of the fish fry thrown for twenty-eight invited relatives and guests. The years with Berenice cooking dinner and dewing Ludie’s suits and shirts on the machine and the two of them always having a good time. And the nine months they lived up North, in the city of Cincinnati, where there was snow. Then Sugarville again, and days margining one into another, and the weeks, the months, the years together. And the pair of them always had a good time, yet it was not so much the happenings she mentioned as the way she told about these happenings that made F. Jasmine understand.
Berenice spoke in an unwinding kind of voice, and she had said that she was happier than a queen. As she told the story, it seemed to F. Jasmine that Berenice resembled a strange queen, if a queen can be colored and sitting at a kitchen table. She unwound the story of her and Ludie like a colored queen unwinding a bolt of cloth of gold—and at the end, when the story was over, her expression was always the same: the dark eye starting straight ahead, her flat nose widened and trembling, her mouth finished and sad and quiet.
I wish I was somebody else except me.
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Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine Carson McCuller's original novel with either her stage play adaptation, the related Bloom's Guide , or other treatments of the story. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618492399, Paperback)

Twelve-year-old Frankie Adams, longing at once for escape and belonging, takes her role as "member of the wedding" to mean that when her older brother marries she will join the happy couple in their new life together. But Frankie is unlucky in love; her mother is dead, and Frankie narrowly escapes being raped by a drunken soldier during a farewell tour of the town. Worst of all, "member of the wedding" doesn't mean what she thinks. A gorgeous, brief coming-of-age novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:31 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Frankie Addams, a motherless twelve-year-old raised by her father and the family's African-American cook, struggles with conflicting feelings about her brother's upcoming wedding.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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