As in her previous novels, Bingham concerns herself with family relationships, and in many ways revisits the tensions of her own well-known Kentucky clan, which she chronicled in the nonfiction Passion and Prejudice . This muted yet powerful narrative is her best yet, as she captures a prominent Kentucky family, the Masons, at their most vulnerable.
Headstrong 19-year-old Apple Mason is about to marry Billy Long, a poor but respectable and shrewdly ambitious employee of her father’s hardware company. The whirlwind wedding preparations have put genteel Mrs. Mason on edge, and the unexpected arrival of Apple’s sister Cory, who has just left her husband, stirs up the disquieting undercurrents beneath the family’s thin surface of restraint and politeness. As each character looks back from the present (the early 1970s) to offer his or her perspective on the rigid clan, a disturbing pattern emerges: the energetic, intelligent young Mason women have always been kept firmly in their place; denied a role in the family business, they are prized, like Kentucky thoroughbreds, for their breeding and bloodline, but they must be tamed and broken. Billy is only too anxious to take charge, and Apple is already ambivalent about their marriage. With a deft touch, Bingham evokes distinctive moments–a ride along the Ohio River at sunset, a quiet yet totally revealing lunch between Apple’s father and his sister–with grace and acuity.
From Publishers Weekly
“Matron of Honor” is a gem of story-telling, oblique, finely drawn, keenly intelligent.”
— The Boston Globe
“Apple is about to marry Billy Long, an employee of Apple’s father. A cool climber with occasional nightmares. Billy sizes up Apple as one with “bloodlines…You see the class.” Apple’s sister Cory arrives unexpectedly the day before the wedding, and Apple immediately installs her as Matron of Honor, demoting Billy’s sister. The wedding draws closer, rawer emotions surface, and Billy smells vulnerability in the “rich folks”…”
— Kirkus Review
“Gradually we see Cory’s transformation from covert to overt rebel.”
— The New York Times
“This muted yet powerful narrative is her best yet.”
— Publishers Weekly
“You will ask, How? So quick? Just the way Mother and Lila did later when I told them. I guess the best I can do by way of explanation is to say that there comes a time and a place and the girl sort of drops into them. I know that doesn’t sound too flattering to Apple, but I don’t mean it that way…. I’d run through quite a few girls in my time, run through them pretty literally—Mother used to accuse me of that when they started calling at all hours of the night—but I didn’t care about that kind of thing anymore. I mean, it had gotten to the point where I could tell when—and I mean exactly when—a new girl was going to let me put my tongue in her mouth (usually at the end of the first date) and when she was going to let me get my hands inside her blouse (usually at the end of the second date). Where is the fun in that?”