West, Dorothy. The Wedding. Read by Robin Miles. Books on Tape, 2021.
Reason read: February was the month Massachusetts became a state. The Wedding takes place on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.
Dorothy West is a master of character development. Every member of the Martha’s Vineyard Oval community is meticulously realized by their actions and reactions to events surrounding them and by the subservient relationships they keep: black and white, man and wife, neighbor and stranger, parent and child, landlord and tenant. Strangely enough, there is harmony in the contrasts.
It is the wedding of beautiful Shelby Coles. Her engagement to a white jazz musician from New York City has her family in turmoil. Lute McNeil would like nothing better than to steal Miss Coles for his own. He already has three young daughters by three different white women, but in his obsessive mind Shelby would make the perfect mother for his biracial children. Even though the Oval is comprised of black middle class residents, the question of belonging is pervasive. The standard assumption that blonde hair and blue eyes means white race. Everyone uses color to get what they want. Example: the preacher uses the image of white children in danger of hurting themselves around a derelict barn in order to get a white man to give him a horse that was of no use to him. The preacher is really after the barn wood.
Dorothy West forces her characters to face the question of identity. The end of The Wedding will leave you hanging. Would Shelby have given Lute a chance if tragedy had not intervened? Were Shelby’s sisters right in their warnings about misguided infatuation?
Author fact: Dorothy West was 85 years old when she wrote The Wedding.
Book trivia: West was known for her short stories. The Wedding is only one of two novels West wrote in her lifetime.
Playlist: “Swing Lo Sweet Chariot” and “Motherless Child”.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Wedding other than to indicate it takes place on Martha’s Vineyard.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Martha’s Vineyard” (p 141). No big stretch there.