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An alternate cover edition for this ISBN can be found hereThe novel that became an award winning play and a major motion picture and that has charmed generations of readers Carson McCullers's classic The Member of the Wedding is now available in small format trade paperback for the first time Here is the story of the inimitable twelve year old Frankie who is utterly hopelessly bored with life until she hears about her older brother's wedding Bolstered by lively conversations with her house servant Berenice and her six year old male cousin—not to mention her own unbridled imagination—Frankie takes on an overly active role in the wedding hoping even to go uninvited on the honeymoon so deep is her desire to be the member of something larger accepting than herself A marvelous study of the agony of adolescence Detroit Free Press The Member of the Wedding showcases Carson McCullers at her most sensitive astute and lasting best


10 thoughts on “The Member of the Wedding

  1. says:

    Totally new review after a 2020 rereadRemember the oppressive boredom of a long and sultry teenage summer?Feeling vaguely fearful and fiercely moody at the precipice of childhood’s endWanting to be alone grown and babied tooUnsure whether to belong or be differentEverything in flux including your very sense of self This short novel will take you back to that time“ This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a memberIt was the summer of fear for FrankieThe summer when Frankie was sick and tired of being FrankieThe year when Frankie thought about the world”Image Belonging and not by johnhainPixabay SourceMoody and charactersThis is a book of mood and transition than plot Of vivid believable uirky characters It covers a few days in the life of 12 year old tomboy Frankie It’s set in the southern US in the early 1940s Frankie’s father owns a watch clock and jewellery shop They’re white not well off but not poor either They don’t own a car but employ Berenice who is colored as a cook housekeeper and childminder Six year old cousin John Henry is often around bright for his age and both a comfort and annoyance to Frankie Her older brother Jarvis is returning after two years away with the army to marry Janice Suddenly everything changes for Frankie including the name she uses F Jasmine and finally Frances one in each section of the book She has some similarities with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird another motherless tomboy in the deep south albeit slightly youngerFrankie becomes obsessed wanting to be a part of not just the wedding but the married life of her brother and the bride she has yet to meet “ They are the we of me”In a subtle masterstroke of not belonging the eponymous wedding happens offstage we see the buildup and the aftermath with only a few retrospective details of the event itself “ The wedding was like a dream outside her power or like a show unmanaged by her in which she was supposed to have no part”Passing through the valley of the shadow of death sex“ There was an uneasy doubt that she could not uite place or name”Frankie’s mother died giving birth to her and she’s known other people who died But it’s the shadow of puberty sexuality and sex that lingers darkly and puzzlingly The pain of no longer being able to share her father’s bed Misunderstandings of things seen and heard A misread and potentially dangerous situation made me shudder with fear over many familiar pages A wedding is a happy occasion but the mood of the story is heavy with increasing foreboding albeit sprinkled with touching moments and gentle humour The final tragedy is unexpected unnecessary and powerfulImage Taylor Flanagan as Frankie Chelsea Manasseri as Berenice and Jago Mystiek as John Henry Photo by by Errich Petersen SourceRadicalSegregation is “the unseen line” but neither McCullers nor her characters think “colored” people should be separated and there’s a very matter of fact and accepting conversation about a cross dressing gay man using terminology of the timeAt the last supper before the wedding Berenice and Frankie put the world to rights and get existential Berenice would have “no separate colored people” with everyone having light brown skin blue eyes like her glass eye and black hair And no war Frankie wants material things like planes and motorcycles for everyone “a better law of gravity” I love that and for people to be able “instantly change back and forth from boys to girls” How radical is that for 1946?MultisensoryIt’s words on a page but vividly so Pages permeated by music as all McCullers’ works are she was offered a place to study piano at Juilliard Here it’s the recurring “jazz spangle” of a piano tuner in a neighbours’ house leaving melodies unfinished I’m sure I’d know the fragrance of Sweet Serenade if I ever encountered it And bridging words visuals and scent is lavender usually an aromatic plant but here the colour of lips ears sky and an evening Relishing revisitingI first read this poignant novella about a tomboy near teen when I was a tomboy teen desperately wanting to be adult but wary too Longing to belong but also yearning to be uniuely myself if I could only figure out what that was I’ve read it at least a couple of times since and again now my own child is beyond a teen It’s all so true even though it’s set in a time and place I’ve never been This was the first McCullers I read and one of the first American books I read A schoolfriend who is still a close friend suggested it and I went on to read all McCullers’ other books than once Catherine thank youImage Carson McCullers Sourceuotes• “The summer was like a green sick dream or like a silent crazy jungle under glass”• “The sound of whistling and it was a grieving August song that did not end The minutes were very long”• “The lavender sky had at last grown dark and there was slanted starlight and twisted shade”• “Noises at twilight had a blurred sound and they lingered”• “Their voices bloomed like flowers She had the feeling that unknown words were in her throat and she was ready to speak them Strange words were flowering in her throat and now was the time for her to name them”• “The trees were poison green There was a jellied stillness in the air”


  2. says:

    As my reading tastes expand I attempt to read books by women authors from across the globe both contemporary and classic My reading journey until now had never included the work of Carson McCullers even though my mother has been urging me to read her books for years When a few friends from the reading for pleasure group said that they were doing a buddy read of McCullers' Member of a Wedding I was pushed to join them While not as highly regarded as her definitive work The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Member of a Wedding is McCullers' tale of coming of age in the south in the 1940s a story of a misfit girl in need of guidance to navigate the world This touching story has generated many discussions in our buddy read and one that I am grateful to have joinedFrankie Addams is twelve years old and has grown up in an unnamed rural community in Georgia She reminds me of an older Scout Finch yet less informed before her father is for the most part absent from her life Like Scout Frankie comes from a family where her mother died in childbirth leaving her father a widower who never remarries It is up to the family's colored housekeeper Berenice to guide Frankie through her childhood and while Berenice is always around to provide hugs and cookies she has left Frankie largely unaware of the world at large At the cusp of puberty Frankie remains naïve to the changes about to happen to her and still runs wild with her younger cousin John Henry West Having no female friends or family members to teach her about the birds and the bees Frankie is perfectly cast as the town's misfit while Berenice prays that a girl best friend enters her life sooner than laterIt is in this context that we meet twelve year old Frankie in the August of her brother's wedding as she plots to leave her home and join her brother on a worldwide adventure through life She tells her father and Berenice and anyone who will listen that when the family goes to the wedding in Winter Hill that she will not be coming back Naturally because her brother's name is Jarvis and his bride to be is named Janice Frankie decides to call herself Jasmine making her a natural member of the JA club She believes that Jarvis and Janice will adopt her and take her with them wherever they go making her a member of their wedding This plotting leads Frankie to buy a lewd dress for the occasion that John Henry dubs a Christmas tree and has her gallivanting through town on adventures as she is restless and has no adult guidance in her life While Berenice teases her for her choice of gown she does little to stop Frankie from exploring her community even when she is on the verge of grave danger The father just nods when Frankie says she is not coming back because either he does not believe this to be true or he is so removed from his daughter's life that he does not know what goes on at his home on a daily basis With the home life being what it was I almost wanted Frankie to leave town even though I knew that this was not a feasible possibilityMcCullers can flat out write Her style is simple and soothing that has the reader reeled in from the opening paragraphs Yet the writing is also insightful as she creates multi layered characters and creates a place for them in the world at large In many meaningful exchanges between Frankie and Berenice McCullers has Frankie asking her housekeeper if the reason why she does not have many opportunities available before her is due to her skin color This is wise beyond a twelve year old's years and also ahead of her time for the south during the Jim Crow era McCullers lived some of her adult life in New York and may have been influenced by northern life As a result she has inserted forward thinking characters into a largely backward thinking southern town While the two do not entirely mesh McCullers has spun a soothing southern tale that takes readers back to simpler timesMy friends in this buddy read listened to an audio version narrated by Susan Sarandon While I did not have the audio on hand I envisioned how Sarandon would speak various portions of the novel adding an extra layer to the beauty of this book Although I still have not read McCullers' definitive work I thoroughly enjoyed The Member of the Wedding This novel allowed me to end my reading year on a positive note as I enjoyed my time with this classic southern author and made for compelling discussions in our small buddy read group While McCullers' other novels do not feature Frankie Addams I am looking forward to spending time with this gifted novelist in the years to come45 stars


  3. says:

    Audiobooknarrated by Susan SarandonListening to Susan Sarandon was as delicious a cuppa warm hot cocoa with baby marshmallows—her voice was comforting soothing cozy “The Heart is The Lonely Hunter” is one of my favorite books and movie”It was wonderful to enjoy Carson McCullers writing againThis is a beautiful and sad story told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl who doesn’t feel as if she fits right in her own skin She wishes to belong to a couple after their wedding Frankie is a vulnerable innocent I worried for her the path she was about to take I never saw the moviebut now I want to This classic book was a gem that I purchased on an audible daily special sale Now I want to read “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe”another book that’s been on my TBR list forever by Carson McCullersThemes of loneliness racial issues war and anxiety run through the novel At times mesmerizing between the gorgeous writing and Sarandon’s voice


  4. says:

    Searing and sad The Member of the Wedding is a deceptively simple coming of age tale set in the South during the midst of WWII Frankie’s a twelve year old white tomboy on the cusp of thirteen who wants nothing than to run away from her distant father and live with her soon to be married brother and his partner Motherless and excluded from other girls’ activities she spends almost all her summer inside her home’s kitchen conversing with her six year old cousin John Henry and her family’s Black maid Berenice Experimental in structure the novel alternates between the trio’s hypnotic conversations about existential dread love and belonging and scenes sketching the protagonist’s time spent outside the home alone or around a sleazy soldier stationed in the town A caustic sense of wit laces the fairly uneventful story and haunting visceral imagery abounds The work considers different responses to the pain of social marginality and ends with a bleak twist


  5. says:

    Carson McCuller's The Member of the Wedding is my unreuited love story in my stable of hos those lyrically intimate classical works I've read that stayed with me because they were confiders of sorts someones I could go to and find some sort of explanation inside a relating that was than good enough of itself And I get my belt when they don't put out for me I don't wanna say cathartic because this book isn't like that It's often uncomfortably painful in the don't wanna be reminded of that wasn't I reading to forget that in the first place way I collected them books like Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and held them in reserve when it got to be too much A lot of my frames of reference in experience are heavily tied into these stories Yeah I was angsty at times coughs I'm really still doing that confusion thing ahem and what I read tomorrow could end up sticking with me for the rest of my days Still I've yet to read anything else that uite stands out to me as much when I think about unreuited love Not the love you can sustain on your own but the emptiness inside that needs another half to become whole Frankie is worried about herself because there's that part missing she doesn't even know how to fill Young Frankie is the girl throwing all of her hopes onto one thing although the chance of it working out well are none why would her brother and his new wife take her with them after their wedding? Doesn't she know only babies and cute puppies get adopted? Doesn't matter it could stand in for any impossible dream I could relate to that feeling of constantly doing the wrong thing constantly looking in the wrong places I can't forget about her desperation It wasn't do what you gotta do bravery but last chances sickness I love Carson McCullers for capturing so well that raw feeling of clinging to make believe The especially hard times when the weight of it becomes too much The moments in life when the usual getting by is no longer enough I read this for the first time when I was fourteen and then again in 2007 Both times it provoked strong feelings in mePs I heart Bernice I'd have loved to have had those kitchen conversations with her Because of her this is not a useless feel bad book but a helps over the rough times book Like a great conversation when all you'd had was droning voices


  6. says:

    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 aloneI read a lot about loneliness Overwhelmingly the books that I gravitate towards seem to have at least some thread of loneliness But thisthis didn't just deal with loneliness this was trying to explain absolute aloneness That completely exposed and silent and almost panicked feeling of being just you by yourself in a world full of “we” part of nothing and no one I was a child who was alone a lot and there were passages in here that were painfully realistic to me So many dusks in darkened backyards with the distant sounds of people’s dishes clinking a dog barking other kid's voices and maybe a faraway radio or car horn and none of it is yours This little girl narrator stood around walked around sat around She wanted out She needed someone almost anyone She looked up from the twilight into lighted house windows and peered into doorways searching She was selfish and mean with flashes of anger but that anger made so much sense to me She’s stuck and we’re all stuck and damned if I of all people don’t know just how futile it can turn out to be to leave a place and start over and find that distant dog barks and car horns are everywhere especially at duskThis book surprised me I liked it than Lonely Hunter perhaps because I related to it on a deeper level but even the writing felt intimate to me tortured and dreamy and in parts philosophical As others have pointed out the ending feels oddly tacked on and almost ruins the perfect tension in the first 90% of the book Almost


  7. says:

    Have you ever picked up a book you are certain you have read before and found that nothing feels familiar on reading it again Of course the first time I read it was for a college course in 1967 so there may be a valid reason aside from lost brain cellssimple time or perhaps short cuts for class But when I reached almost the very end of the book one plot point did seem familiar and now my doubts about truly having read it are goneAs for the book itself Frankie F Jasmine Frances is a wonderful creation Twelve going on forever she is struggling to understand who she is what her world is and where she belongs in the world as a very large whole Over the course of a few days and followed by a short coda we watch her fight with herself her family her housekeeper who is than that almost the whole town as she wages the battle with growing up Of course she doesn't know what the battle is and that is one of the beauties of this novelFrankie's inability to articulate even to herself what is wrong She has one demanddesire to go away with her brother and his new bride after the wedding To escape her life Everyone else knows what the outcome of that demand will beThere are episodes of beautiful prose throughout the novel that capture memories of summer and heat so well Time in August could be divided into four parts morning afternoon twilight and dark At twilight the sky became a curious blue green which soon faded to white The air was soft gray and the arbor and trees were slowly darkening It was the hour when sparrows gathered and whirled above the rooftops of the town and when in the darkened elms along the street there was the August sound of the cicadas Noises at twilight had a blurred sound and they lingered the slam of a screen door down the street voices of children the whir of a lawnmower from a yard somewhere loc 1567This reminds me of summers of my childhood The only stylistic negative for me and this may be personal nitpicking was the degree of repetitiveness in parts of the storytelling For me at times the story stood a bit still Then at some point the forward movement picked up and did not stop even when Frankie continued to be in the kitchen with Berenice Lastly I found Berenice to be a wonderfully realized character who could be a mother substitute a voice of insight on another race and way of life a voice of reason for a girl child approaching her teen years


  8. says:

    Frankie is a white girl who lives in a small Southern town and dreams of Alaska She is twelve years old and in the throes of unbelonging Her father has told her she’s too old to sleep in his bed her age mates have formed groups that don’t include her and her only day to day company is her six year old cousin John Henry and middle aged Berenice who keeps house Her much older brother visits home with his fiancee and then goes away again to complete the wedding preparations Frankie who will attend the wedding is intensely captivated by the event to come to the point of obsession Carson McCullers being a genius renders this banal situation with the nightmare texture of an agonised crisis of becoming Frankie’s unheimlich experience of her ordinary monotonous life seems perpetually liminal Even when she joyously enters the centre connecting with all around her through the bridge of the wedding at last a part of her life that others can relate to a generic topic she strays to the unsafe edges she exaggerates she liesFrankie is an unlikeable protagonist; she is awkward self centred and selfish gloomy given to melodrama unfeeling and sometimes manipulative towards others I recognise her totally and terribly I was just like this when I was twelve years old And I swear I’ve never felt that about a literary tween or if I have I was kidding myself The honesty of the portrait hurts as Frankie hurts I never stopped loving her and praying for her to be safe and get through the fearful time however horrible she was because she was real to me her pain was real This is what it’s really like I constantly felt The relationships and interactions between Frankie and Berenice and John Henry are central John Henry is as convincing a character as Frankie Often he is sympathetic when Frankie uses him to relieve her loneliness or mistreats him when he longs to go out and play with the other children Unlike Frankie his sense of himself is healthy but like her he is at different times both nice and cruel to her in his childish ways Berenice a black woman who has been married several times is sensible straightforward motherly up to a point She coaxes and scolds and warns and protects Frankie often impatient with her but never unkind and often humouring her whims Although Frankie is not satisfied in her need for “membership” by her relationship with Berenice she takes Berenice’s oft repeated anecdotes and life stories to heart they form the basis of her meagre knowledge about romantic love and sexuality Her empathy for Berenice uneven and awkwardly or rudely expressed is redeeming; she will not always be this awful awkward twelve year old She will grow into someone capable of loving and caring for othersFrankie’s wrestles with her identity and the instabilty of her self perception are staged with the seriousness of tragedy of the grandeur and pain with which Frankie experiences them Her adolescent alienation never elevated to a heroic struggle is embodied in the sometimes disjointed and repetative language which is also hauntingly beautiful like a sorrowful chant It’s the writing of a genius of feeling


  9. says:

    Here’s the February House in Brooklyn one of the great artistic flophouses where for a while in the 1940s Carson McCullers crashed and crashed with WH Auden Jane and Paul Bowles Gypsy Rose Lee and briefly a chimpanzee McCullers was an avid drunk as was everyone else One night they ran out into the street to chase a fire engine as one does and McCullers came back with the idea for this book Which does not by the way have a fire engine in it or a chimpanzeeInstead it has a twelve year old in it This is a real life young adult novel written about young adults for young adults and I definitely want to point out that why is anyone still reading Catcher in the Rye when this and We Have Always Lived in the Castle exist If you know any teenagers for fuck’s sake give them exactly these two books That’s Anna PauinAnyway Frankie is twelve so she changes her name twice over the course of the book She spends a lot of time sitting around a table with the family cook and some creepy little kid Seriously that’s like three uarters of the plot and if you think that sounds boring then you haven’t read anything by Carson McCullers who’s a writer who not only goes “straight to the story as a circus dog breaks through the paper hoop” but who also wrote that sentence about it You should start now “The world is certainly a sudden place” and a dangerous one and danger creeps up here at first you’re like hey that guy’s creepy and then you’re like oh no he’s coming over here and thenthe world is a sudden place view spoilerShe whales him in the head with a pitcher btw is what happens In case you really wanted to know how much trauma you’re in for hide spoiler


  10. says:

    I'd imagine the word 'universal' gets thrown around a lot in regards to this work The temptation of it is exactly why I am excising it from my vocabulary for even the small amount of literature I've read in the culverts of unacknowledged canon were enough to show the lie of the word I find an immense amount of resonance in this work resonance structured on a foundation of tokenism sentimentality and other measures of self willed isolation commonly shared with other white people works of 'universal' meaning I do not claim that works such as Cities of Salt or Almanac of the Dead do not rely on the same dynamics of self vs other but no one would think to call them universal That epithet reuires power and the world at large is not of a mind to grant them thatHow much does the cult of US American childhood play a part in letting millions of white parents sleep at night? Boys will be boys girls will be sugar and sweet and every excuse will be made when a troubled teenage soul slaughters their propagators with gun in hand I wonder how many condemned Frankie's father for letting her roam rather than the systematic excision of her mind from her body by the s of society There are the usual excuses lack of mother lack of white female friends of a common age the lack of urban space commonly put as the ultimate solution by the North and the South As per usual McCullers comes much closer to the heart of it than most who try their hand at the metaphysics of growing up but the threat society places on the body of a young white girl is still centered around that fact of whitenessI may be too old to take as deep a comfort in this as I would have once but my methods of reacting to fear of the oncoming void with rampant imagination are no different now than they were at age twelve and under Enough experience has honed it into a serviceable way of living in this capitalistic age replete with the communication skills and awareness of personal strengths reuisite in this country of mine However I now know that I am never going to grow up; for better or for worse