This is the story of a young girl named Frankie falling in love with her brother’s wedding. No, not her brother. The wedding. Not the ideal of the wedding dress, the guests or the service. Just the idea of the wedding is essentially her first love. This may seem like an odd idea to formulate a story around. When I first picked up this book I was deeply confused by the subject matter, so decided to read it with a clear mind and take it for what it was.
“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.”
However, you can not read this novel with a clear mind, simply because it speaks to your memories of being a child. There are many different ways one can experience preadolescence, nevertheless there are thoughts and feelings that are universal when it comes to discovering yourself and making sense of the world around you. Frankie is the embodiment of confusion in the mind of a child who will inevitably become an adult. She wishes to be everywhere at once, see the world. She feels trapped in her home, misunderstood by her father, and perpetual anxious to experience life. She is also moody, prone to bouts of anger, rebellion, and violence. As children we are contradictory. In many regards, we are innocent, while in others we are constantly exposed to injustice and cruelty. Carson McCuller writes this novel about a time in our lives when we are coming to grips with our place in the world.
As an adult our childhood can be a little fuzzy, maybe we don’t vividly remember being, say four, but we understand how strange we felt in our own bodies at ten. All of those moments that define you are an adult such as discovering your sexuality, your likes, aspirations, seeing your parents as flawed beings are all eloquently explored through Frankie. She questions who she wants to be when she’s older, whether she will go to jail, why she is a girl and not a boy and like most children, desires to become an adult before her time. Reading ‘The Member of the Wedding’ as an adult is sure to make you not only reminisce but appreciate your younger self. Growing pains are inevitable, and we can take for granted how strong we must be to face troubles and conflict with ourselves and others while we are still developing. This is not a novel that is solely for adults, although there are some adult themes they are few and far between. That being said you get the impression while reading that the intended audience is adults. My suggestion for when to read this book is on a rainy Wednesday, its one of those books that pair well with a hot cup of tea and some blankets, rather than say a beach read. Furthermore, although the novel lies at over 200 pages it does not feel as long, instead, I felt towards the end that I could have read another 200 pages. Although once you finish the novel you shall know why it ends where it does. As someone who usually reads books slowly over a period of days, this is definitely a book you should attempt to read in as little sittings as possible to get the full effect. I remember staying up until 11pm just so I could finish it, and crying while doing so. The message of the book is definitely bitter-sweet and brought me to the realisation that I would never fully be able to return to the spontaneous energetic girl I once was. However, I am grateful that I read it because it is truly a treat from start to finish and you can easily get invested in Frankie. She is curious about the world and this increases your own curiosity. I finished it sad and yet deeply content that I had the chance to experience what I had.
Carson McCuller is also a very interesting woman, her voice and writing style reflects a woman who is both fragile and misplaced in society. Through her narrative, you come to love her as an author and a person, almost as though she is Frankie. Now I wish not only for you to read this book now you are all grown up, but for it to get more recognition. It deserves it. Now you may be wondering “who does the wedding play into this story?” and the answer is, you will have to read to find out now won’t you?
If you have read ‘The Member of the Wedding’, comment below letting me know what you think!
Side photo credit: Flickr/ ‘Wedding 015a’ by Walter