Oh boy, was this an intriguing selection. Cassandra…found its way to me via the podcast, Backlisted. I’m quite pleased that it did. As is the case with fictional works that lean heavily on character study, the analysis within the pages, at times, becomes unnerving. As a reader, there is the edgy consciousness of the voyeur, as one witnesses raw humanity exposed. Cassandra freely leads you there as she “wail(s) at the gates of Troy.”
The story begins with Cassandra Edwards, in the throes of composing her graduate thesis, deliberating on when (or if) she should head out on the 5 hour drive from Berkeley to Putnam, her hometown. Her twin sister, Judith, after several months spent in New York, has returned to the central California town, where she intends to marry her fiance in a swift ceremony. Only immediate family members have made the guest list. Cassandra having suffered the emotional strain of her sister’s absence, is relieved to have her back but equally disturbed by Judith’s seemingly rash decision to wed Dr. John Thomas “what’s-his-name”. Once it’s decided that she will in fact make the long sweltering journey back home, Cassandra begins to cook up an impetuous scheme of her own. She will convince Judith of the errors of her ways, and prevent her from making the biggest mistake of her life. Marriage is the stuff of convention. And according to Cassandra, she and her twin are an unconventional pair. Two halves of one whole. Inseparable. Cassandra will go to extreme lengths to prove this point.
This novel was such a literary delight. Straddling the razor thin line between dark humor and looming tragedy, Dorothy Baker constructs a fictional tale that feels entirely too real. Cassandra narrates a majority of the novel. But, mid-section, the reader is treated to a shorter rendition of events, seen through the eyes of Judith. This alternate perspective adds a layer of complexity to the story, and demonstrates the malleability of truth.
Cassandra is a troubled woman, no doubt. She is selfish, reckless, and far too attached to her twin. But she’s also quite funny. Disarmingly so. She’s a character who in spite of her prickly nature inspires the desire to protect. Her armor is so easily weakened by the slings and arrows of this world. Yet Cassandra is like many of us. Desperately afraid of change. Luckily, she has an exceptionally devoted psychotherapist. But you have to read the book to learn more about that.
A dark, introspective comedy that will have you on edge throughout, Cassandra At The Wedding is an entertaining (and slightly alarming) read.
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