Having read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter a few years ago, I was eager to crack open another Carson McCullers' book. If I could find half of the raw emotion and character that enveloped McCullers' first novel, I would be content. I chose The Member of the Wedding for no reason other than accessibility; I happened to have a copy right in front of me. Though the book started out much too slow, lacked a good sense of pacing, and wasn't nearly as powerful as its predecessor, it was a great novel, indeed.
McCullers had this way of picking out the most awkward, socially-inept characters and making them accessible to her readers. Not only are these characters accessible, but their actions and feelings really resonate with many of us, I believe. Frankie Addams (or F. Jasmine as she prefers to be called) is one of these characters. She's strange and unsophisticated, but she believes otherwise, which leads her along a path toward great embarrassment or worse. The reader sees it coming, and because we care about the character we want her to avoid it, but because this is a McCullers story we eagerly anticipate the destruction. We know the carnage will be laid out in a way that is moving and lyrical.
In some ways The Member of the Wedding is on par with The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter —it is a wonderful character study and does not flinch in its portrayal of the human condition. In other regards, however, The Member of the Wedding doesn't have the story or the cast of secondary characters that made McCullers' debut novel unstoppable. Regardless, I look forward to the next. McCullers' name easily belongs amongst the greats of her time.