Cassandra at the Wedding
by Dorothy Baker, afterword by Deborah Eisenberg
Cassandra Edwards is a graduate student at Berkeley: gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable. At the beginning of this novel, she drives back to her family ranch in the foothills of the Sierras to attend the wedding of her identical twin, Judith, to a nice young doctor from Connecticut. Cassandra, however, is hell-bent on sabotaging the wedding.
Dorothy Baker's entrancing tragicomic novella follows an unpredictable course of events in which her heroine appears variously as conniving, self-aware, pitiful, frenzied, absurd, and heartbroken—at once utterly impossible and tremendously sympathetic. Cassandra reckons with her complicated feelings about the sister who she feels owes it to her to be her alter ego; with her father, a brandy-soaked retired professor of philosophy; and with the ghost of her dead mother, as she struggles to come to terms with the only life she has.
First published in 1962, Cassandra at the Wedding is a book of enduring freshness, insight, and verve. Like the fiction of Jeffrey Eugenides and Jhumpa Lahiri, it is the work of a master stylist with a profound understanding of the complexities of the heart and mind.
An important achievement...intoxicating fun.
— Lillian Smith
[Baker's] ear for dialogue is acute, her prose immaculate...this is a novel of exceptional quality.
— Times Literary Supplement
Knowing, wise and a cracking read.
I—whose usual bed time is ten o'clock—stayed up all night reading that exquisite Cassandra at the Wedding—dazzled by the pyrotechnics of such an artist. I can only think back to Young Man with a Horn, and be overwhelmed by Dorothy Baker's continuing brilliance.
— Carson McCullers
Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding (New York Review Books, 2004) is another novel in which it's hard not to be caught up from the very first page by the first—person voice of the speaker. Originally published in 1962, this is the compulsively readable story of Cassandra's unwilling trip home to attend (or prevent) her twin sister Judith's wedding. She's one of those neurotic, intellegent women, trying to understand the direction her life has taken. Long out of print, this is just one of the wonderful titles (both fiction and non—fiction) brought back to life by a publishing company whose mission, according to editor Edwin Frank, is to rescue some of the many truly remarkable works of literature that have had the misfortune of falling out of print.
— Nancy Pearl, The Beat, KUOW 94.9 FM Seattle NPR