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4.0 out of 5 stars A DARK AND MELONCHOLIC COMING OF AGE STORY..., 30 July 2009
This review is from: The Member of the Wedding (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (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. It is little wonder that the dress she ends up purchasing is totally unsuitable. Her feeling of isolation is palpable to the reader.

Although Frankie is somewhat of a tomboy, she likes getting dressed up, slathering on lipstick, and taking a walk through the town, calling herself F. Jasmine, looking older than her years. In this guise, she meets a soldier, who takes her for being much older. It comes as no surprise when it all goes horribly wrong. Yet, Frankie is evidently a survivor and manages to fend for herself.

The moment of truth for Frankie arrives when her brother's wedding finally takes place, but by then that event is almost anti-climactic, as events continue to buffet Frankie, leaving her more isolated that ever before. Still, she continues on, not seeming to have learned anything all from her experiences, an emotionally troubled child suffering a severe disconnection from the world.

This is a thematically complex story told through the jagged fragments of the life of a young girl, one who views the world in a disjointed, unrealistic way, her world view clouded by inner demons that are never given a voice. It is a story that is dark and melancholic, leaving the reader to ponder upon a life so young, yet so despairing.
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