Wendy Jones' novel "The World Is a Wedding" picks up where her earlier novel, "The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals," left off.
Price is the undertaker in the Welsh town of Narberth. He is an extrovert, and his good looks, integrity and warmth endear him to everyone. At times, he acknowledges to himself that his business is not much more than "selling boxes to be put in the ground."
Wilfred marries the beautiful, serene Flora Myffanwy, a woman he met at her father's funeral. Bride and groom are infinitely polite, addressing each other as "Mr. Price" and "Mrs. Price." They agree they know virtually nothing about each other and attempt to remedy that situation by conscientiously divulging personal information at regular intervals.
Wilfred reveals that although he was briefly married before, to a local woman named Grace Reece, the marriage was never consummated. Before going to bed on their wedding night, Grace admitted that she was pregnant.
The novel now turns heavy. "Grace's baby was conceived by a dark act, in an unholy alliance." Grace's brother Madoc had raped her.
"She will never forget … Madoc with a fistful of her hair, holding her rigid, her face pressed into the brown wallpaper."
Wilfred divorces Grace and forces her to leave town. She ends up at the Ritz Hotel in London. The author's depiction of Grace working 10-hour days as a maid palpably evokes pathos.
The book is humorous throughout, often hilariously funny, but it is, at the same time, serious and distressing. Perhaps the writer has fallen short in blending these tones.
Katherine Bailey is a critic in Bloomington.