The Wedding Machine: Appalling

My wasting time with, er, reading, The Wedding Machine is the result of a recent “dash and grab” trip to the library on a Friday afternoon on my way home from work.  I thought it sounded cute:  4 Southern women responsible for planning proper events for the births, marriages, and deaths in their community and how this “machine” breaks down as they plan their children’s nuptials.  What’s not to like?  I thought it would be a light, sweet book.  A quick, easy read.

First of all, the South of South Carolina and further south must be very different from my experience in North Carolina (and I was born and raised in a small town–cue John Mellencamp).  Ray, who has inherited the propriety mantle from the previous generation deplores change whether it be Northerners, changes to her church, her free spirited daughter, etc.  Ray classifies everything that is not the way she wants or thinks it should be as deplorable.  Through her eyes, difference is seen as something abhorrent.  Hilda, the princess, has driven away her husband through her inability to connect with him by not revealing her childhood sexual abuse.  She reacts to his leaving her by locking herself in her house and not coming out (and this is a woman in her 50s!).  Kitty B, whose wedding in the late 60s opens the novel, has come to despise her husband for what she believes are fabricated illnesses while he apparently despises and blames her for the oft-mentioned death of their infant 25 (or 27–we’ll get to that later) years ago.  The sad thing is that they have two other living children and it is apparently their dead infant who is always on their mind.  And Sis, poor Sis, lost her fiance in Vietnam and has never married.  And apparently remains a virgin still. 

WTF?  These women were pathetic.  The narrative is set in the present, yet jumps back often to various points in the women’s past.  And speaking of the timeline, frankly, I didn’t understand it.  Hart referred to certain spans of time but then things like the births and ages of children didn’t make sense.  Could she not do the math?  I was confused about when things actually happened. 

I confess that I never would have touched this book if I had noticed that it was considered “inspirational” fiction.  It’s just not a type of fiction I enjoy.  However, I gave it a chance and finished it, and I was perplexed where the “women of faith” designation came in.  Yeah, sure, these women went to church and considered their church important to them, but they did not act remotely Christian.  Ray was busy judging everyone around her, and their church showed up only when it was a plot point or setting for a wedding or baptism.  Honestly, if the book hadn’t had the “inspirational fiction” label provided by my library system, I would have never known.

The only good thing I could say about this book and these hateful, sad women is that it was a quick read.  I read it in a couple of hours.   Maybe it’s a generational difference: I am over 2 decades younger than the women in the book.  Maybe my mother would be able to relate.  But I just didn’t think these women were good characters.  There was little to like about them.  Why must books–even modern books–set in the South be so pathetic?  I felt the same way about Girls in Trucks.  I fully believe that there are ways that an author can depict Southern traditions and quirkiness without making Southerners seem so pitiful and one-dimensional. Surely?

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