Frankie Addams is a confused twelve year old girl She is getting ready for her brother's wedding in 1944. She sees no reason why anyone would want to get married. She is at the stage in life, where she feels like she doesn't fit in. She doesn't belong with the young kids anymore, but she is allowed to be with the teenagers yet, either.
The Member of the Wedding, shows us how Frankie is trying to come to grips with what is happening in her life. America is in the middle of the war, and she is just now starting to realize that. She doesn't know anything about boys, but is afraid of sex. She meets a soldier and when he tries to kiss her, she bites his tongue and hits him over the head. The novella tells us that Frankie is becoming a woman, but still is a kid. She seeks advice from her family's housekeeper, Berenice, who tells her a little about relationships. Berenice was married, but her husband was killed, so she has stayed single. She doesn't want to get married again. At the end of the story, we see that Frankie has to deal with the death of her young cousin, the marriage of her brother, and coming into adolescence.
In The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, we meet Miss Amelia Evans. She is a wealthy woman, who lives in Georgia. She was married once, to a man named, Marvin Macy, but only for ten days. She now lives alone and likes it that way. She doesn't believe in love. She is in town one night and meets a hunchback named Cousin Lymon. She invites him into her building and they stay for many days. The men in town talk about what could be happening, and believing Amelia had killed Cousin Lymon, they go into the building. They are surprised to discover that not only is the hunchback alive, but Amelia has fallen in love with him. She serves the men some crackers and snacks and this is the beginning of the Cafe. Meanwhile, Marvin, who was a mean and cruel man, but changed when he met Amelia, wants revenge. He loved her so much, but when she left him after only ten days, he reverted back to his nasty manner. He was convicted on robberies and sent to the state penitentiary. When he gets released, he uses Cousin Lymon, and the two of them steal from Amelia and leave her brokenhearted.
Both of the books were set in small southern towns. The Member of the Wedding, is set during WWII. In a small southern town, everyone knows everyone's business. We see that Frankie is aware of what other people are up to. We see that she longs for something, but isn't quite sure what that is. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is set in Georgia, and Carson McCullers uses the thinking that southern girls are tough and strong. Amelia is all of those, but she longs to be loved. In the end, the one thing she wanted, but denied to others, is the one thing she gets and ends up destroying her.