With a new introduction by DIANA EVANS
'A writer of huge compassion and acute observation, and also of dazzling style . . . Her work is more relevant than ever' Diana Evans
'Timelessly cinematic, with painterly visual descriptions and pitch-perfect dialogue that ranges across class, region, race, age, and gender' Emma Garman, Paris Review
Set on a bucolic Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s, The Wedding tells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made up of the best and brightest of the East Coast's black bourgeoisie. Within this inner circle of 'blue-vein society', we witness the prominent Coles family gather for the wedding of their loveliest daughter, Shelby, who could have chosen from 'a whole area of eligible men of the right colors and the right professions.' Instead, she has fallen in love with and is about to be married to Mead Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. A shock wave breaks over the Oval as its longtime members grapple with the changing face of its community.
Not just the story of one wedding, but of many, this compelling story offers insights into issues of race, prejudice and identity while maintaining its firm belief in the compensatory power of love.
Through a delicate interweaving of past and present, North and South, black and white, The Wedding unfolds outward from a single isolated time and place until it embraces five generations of an extraordinary American family. It is an audacious accomplishment, a monumental history of the rise of a black middle class, written by a writer who lived it. Wise, heartfelt, and shattering, it is Dorothy West's crowning achievement.
The tranquility of a late summer weekend in 1953 is shattered by a tragic accident in this spare, affecting novel by one of the last surviving members of the Harlem Renaissance. The Oval, the exclusive black enclave on Martha's Vineyard, prepares for the marriage of Shelby Coles, daughter of one of the community's most admired couples. Shelby's choice of white jazz musician Meade Wyler awakens dormant but unresolved racial issues in her family, which includes her physician father, enduring a loveless but socially proper union; her mother, confronting a dwindling pool of partners for her discreet affairs, and her great-grandmother, who dreams of escaping her ambivalence by returning to her aristocratic Southern roots. The arrival of black artisan Lute McNeil upsets the precarious equilibrium of the Oval when his aggressive pursuit of Shelby leads to disaster. Through the ancestral histories of the Coles family, West (The Living Is Easy) subtly reveals the ways in which color can burden and codify behavior. The author makes her points with a delicate hand, maneuvering with confidence and ease through a sometimes incendiary subject. Populated by appealing characters who wrestle with the nuances of race at every stage of their lives, West's first novel in 45 years is a triumph. BOMC and QPB featured selection.