In her final novel, Dorothy West offers an intimate glimpse into African American middle class. Set on 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 the 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 Meade 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.
With elegant, luminous prose, Dorothy West crowns her literary career by illustrating one family's struggle to break the shackles of race and class.
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.
Beautifully written classic
Dorothy West takes a deep dive into race relations and love as she delivers a beautifully written story of social class and color.