An interesting book – ‘harsh, comical, magical realism’ says one reviewer. And it is definitely all that. This was written in 1992, after and during the time when author Gloria Naylor had many hit books and movies. And stamped inside the front cover is the name of a woman I’ve served on a lot of committees with – so I assume I bought it at a used book sale somewhere to benefit some group. (This is the biggest small town in the country, with a strong web of relationships.) But I’d be surprised if I bought it at all, since I read little fiction. I expect another friend of mine pressed it into my hand, with the admonition that I’d like it. And one evening, while I was searching the pile of books in my bedside table for a story, not something serious to be paid strong attention to, my hand came to this one. Which is of course serious and to be paid strong attention to.
Really a series of short stories tied loosely around what sounds like a very bad restaurant called Bailey’s Cafe, the book details periods of life of African Americans (and one Ethiopian Jewish girl) that are totally full of misery, yet not devoid of hope. Gloria is a powerful writer, an excellent writer, skilled at her chosen craft. Any of her work is worth reading for that. This one is worth reading on that scale – and on the scale of her incredible imagined humans, who still are able to hope.