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The Member of the Wedding (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – January 17, 1951

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook (Book 153)
  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Play edition (January 17, 1951)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811200930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811200936
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,110,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


In Carson McCullers' writing, every word evokes the tragic and miraculous emotional truths of ordinary experience. Her characters are complex, even weird, but feel entirely genuine; her scenes are accessible even when they aren't familiar. In The Member of the Wedding, Frankie Adams is hungry for escape, hungry for belonging; it is her peculiar resolution to this classic adolescent paradox that makes her unique. Frankie finds a new identity in her determination to become an integral part of her brother's wedding: "At last she knew just who she was and understood where she was going. She loved her brother and the bride and she was a member of the wedding. The three of them would go into the world and they would always be together." This fantasy transforms Frankie's twelve-year old perspective on herself, her relationships, and her small southern hometown. Her inevitable disillusionment and ultimate survival seem almost mythical, yet the tale is told in the simplest terms. The ongoing conversations in the hot kitchen between Frankie, her cousin John Henry, and the cook Berenice resonate with social and personal authenticity. This is a story to be read and reread, to be heard and felt and trusted. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Kirsten Backstrom

More About the Author

Carson McCullers (1917-1967) was the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and Clock Without Hands. Born in Columbus, Georgia, on February 19, 1917, she became a promising pianist and enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York when she was seventeen, but lacking money for tuition, she never attended classes. Instead she studied writing at Columbia University, which ultimately led to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, the novel that made her an overnight literary sensation. On September 29, 1967, at age fifty, she died in Nyack, New York, where she is buried.

Customer Reviews

It was very slow reading and the plot went no where.
Diane S. Asay
Carson McCullers's novella is rich with characters, all finely wrapped within beautiful prose.
G. Donahue
I read this book many years ago, when I was a teenager myself.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 56 people found the following review helpful By lazza on April 29, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am amazed at the largely negative reviews of this book. While I will acknowledge Carson McCullers hadn't consistently produced fine literature, 'The Member of the Wedding' has to be considered one of her best. In short it chronicles the summer of a twelve year old girl growing up in the American South during WW II. She has reached the age where she doesn't quite fit into this world. Her emotions reach the boiling point as the day of her brother's wedding nears. that's about it. Sound dull? Anything but.

What really makes this book special are the characterizations and the extremely rich prose. Very few modern writers can produce such eloquent and simple prose, ... perhaps Margaret Atwood comes close. I found myself feeling such empathy for our leading character, ... and I'm a middle-aged man. So don't think this is a book for little girls. Its appeal trancends both age and gender.

Bottom line: simply wonderful. Read it NOW!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a book about Frankie Adams, a twelve year old girl coming of age in the South during World War II. We see her world through her eyes, so that the reader gets a skewed version of the world around Frankie. Clearly all is not right with her, as her brother is getting married and Frankie thinks that she will be going off with her brother and his bride. Frankie spins a total fantasy around this concept. She does not think that two is company and three is a crowd.

Why does she do this? There are many reasons. Some of them are rather dark. Frankie's mother died giving birth to her. Her father has remained a widower, letting Frankie sleep in the same bed with him until she was about twelve, when he finally gave her the boot. Her best friend is her six year old first cousin, John Henry. He likes to sleep over, and when he does, he sleeps in the bed with Frankie. She caresses him when he sleeps, and even takes to licking him behind his ear while he slumbers. She also has apparently had a sexual encounter of some kind with a neighborhood boy, an incident about which she will not speak. The author weaves these details into the story, glossing over them, leaving the reader feeling shocked. This feeling is exacerbated by the almost casual interjection of these details.

There is so much emotional trauma in Frankie's life that it is amazing she can function at all. Also distressing to Frankie is the fact that she is isolated from children her own age. The neighborhood girls, who are just a little older than her and whom Frankie envies, shun her. Her father pretty much ignores her, leaving her upbringing to the housekeeper, Bernice. When it comes time to buy her a dress for her brother's wedding, she is sent off to buy the dress by herself.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. Lobato on October 18, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is my very favorite book and, in my opinion, far superior to "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter."

I was not an adolescent when I read it--I was 23--but I was astonished by how often McCullers was able to perfectly describe what I had believed to be indescribable experiences. In some ways I think that my attachment to the book grew from my ability to relate to Frankie's anxiety. The pace of the book, which all takes place during one stereotypically oppressive southern summer, becomes more frantic as Frankie's anxiety mounts. Her efforts to belong, to be a member of something, push her to force attachments with others even while she knows they are superficial. I'm certain that, on this point alone, readers who remember the desperation to belong during their adolescence will relate to the novel. McCullers also conveys Frankie's longing for something to happen, to take her beyond the repetetive tedium of her young life and infuse it with adventure. When Frankie takes this task into her own hands, the results are harsh and startling.

What truly makes McCullers and this slim novel so amazing is her prose, which is both so sparse and crisp and yet so eloquent and expressive. Every word seems so deliberate that I couldn't believe there could be a more perfect way to depict the scene. At the novel's start, I will always remember the sentence, "At last the summer was like a green sick dream, or like a silent crazy jungle under glass."

I wish I could convey how much this book gripped me. It made me feel that my experiences were shared in a much deeper way than I ever could have imagined or hoped. "The Member of the Wedding" is funny, distressing, and deeply sad: as perfect a novel as I've ever read.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mary Jo Lomele on October 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers, Frankie's wish to be with her brother and his wife-to-be symbolized her frantic need to escape the stagnant monotony her young life had become. Trapped in an awkward world of adolescence, Frankie no longer fit in. School was out and she had no friends her own age with whom she could associate. She felt isolated. John Henry was too young for her to relate to and though Berenice was in many ways her only source of emotional support, she was a permanent fixture of the kitchen from which Frankie so desperately wanted to flee. Somehow, someway, Frankie was going to leave.
There was, however, one problem. Frankie knew, perhaps subconsciously, that she was too young to take charge of her own life. In a desperate attempt to find a solution to her dilemma, Frankie dared to dream. Janice and Jarvis were going to sweep her off her feet and take her with them to far off lands. With them, she would meet all the people she believed they knew. Though her fantasy was very obviously absurd, it served to fill her with hope, anticipation and joy. Her conviction in the realization of this dream was so persistent that she did not hesitate to verbalize her plan.
Thus, the reader is drawn into Frankie's storybook fantasy, discovering at the same time her inconsolable need to feel connected. If read at face value, many would surmise that Frankie's behavior simply merited stricter discipline; that she was way out of line; a spoiled child who had to have her way or knives would fly. Tennessee Williams stated, "Frankie's attempt to take out a membership in love is the main theme of the novel." If by love he meant the need to be accepted, then Frankie proved Tennessee Williams right in more ways than one.
The onslaught of adolescence can be brutal.
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