The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
Novel: The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor | Goodreads
Release: (this edition) June 30, 1983
Publisher: Penguin Books
Source: English class
In her heralded first novel, Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak inner-city sanctuary, creating a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and openhearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home. Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple eloquence and uncommon intuition. Her remarkable sense of community and history makes The Women of Brewster Place a contemporary classic—a touching and unforgettable read.
At first glance, The Women of Brewster Place appears to be a mottled mix of stories, a pastiche of pasts and presents strung together by a single crumbling building. Each woman’s tale packs such an emotional punch that it can be difficult to see beyond each chapter’s individual assault of feelings. Surges of elation are quickly met with sobering revelations, creating a novel that embodies the clichéd description of “emotional roller coaster.” As a result, each character’s story initially emerges as its own entity, full of difficulties only those it affects can understand.
The Women of Brewster Place could very well be read this way—as an anthology of detached tales—and still tell a beautiful story; each main character’s distinct voice and fascinating set of struggles stand on their own. However, this novel’s real brilliance springs from the way the characters’ lives weave together.
The women of Brewster Place may never become close friends, but Gloria Naylor intersects their stories by allowing the characters to comment on each other’s lives and personalities, helping tell each others’ tales. She occasionally breaks from one person’s narration to splice in a thought from another, bringing a new set of eyes to each scene. Readers get to see not only one character’s outlook on her own life, but other characters’ outside observations, which sets up a subtle study in the way each individual’s experiences affect her perspective on an issue. Even better, this variety of viewpoints allows even more raw emotion into the novel. An event that one character views as an accomplishment could also be seen as a failure, and an event that another character views as a devastating shock could also be considered a minor setback—and readers get to experience the emotions that accompany each.
The Women of Brewster Place draws readers in and flings their feelings to the floor, forcing them to feel everything the characters do. Naylor demands that everyone, even those whose lives could not be more different from those portrayed in this novel, relate to the women in her heartbreaking yet hopeful story. This book shredded my soul and stitched it back together again with the strangest of threads, a surgery that made me laugh, cry, and spend days recuperating. Although it has been months since I finished reading, I can still feel the stinging scars.