The Men of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
Published Date: 1998
African American Fiction | Literary Fiction |
Gloria Naylor’s The Men of Brewster Place, is a sequel to her The Women of Brewster Place. As the title implies The Men of Brewster Place tells the story of inhabitants of Brewster Place from a male perspective. The men featured in The Men of Brewster Place stories are intertwined with the stories from the women in the first novel. In fact, it’s necessary to read the first novel to understand some of the men’s purpose in the sequel since it’s not obvious. The Men of Brewster Place let the reader into the past, present, and small glimpses into their futures of men whose lives are connected with Brewster Place.
“That wasn’t satisfying.” The first thought that crossed my mind as I read the last page and closed the book. The Men of Brewster Place didn’t live up to my expectation. The Women of Brewster Place was expertly done on three elements; writing, characters, and plots. The Men of Brewster Place delivered only on one element, the writing.
Gloria Naylor’s writing was exemplary, but it was lacking the “magic” that made first book first book great. The writing was beautiful, but it didn’t provoke the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced while reading The Women of Brewster Place. In every chapter of the first book I felt I knew the characters personally and was emotionally invested in their story. At the end of most chapters in The Men of Brewster place, I felt nothing. Sometimes even wondering why stories were included.
The most unsatisfying element of The Men of Brewster Place were the characters. The male characters in the men of Brewster Place owed their placement in the story from the interactions with the women from The Women of Brewster Place. I went into the story without having read the synopsis, but I hoped the characters in this story where unique. Instead, it was the men telling their side of the story. The only story that added any extra depth to the stories in The Women of Brewster Place as Eugene’s. It was frustrating and heartbreaking but added in extra layer to Ciel stories by explaining his actions in the original story. Brother Jerome’s story was short and beautiful but didn’t add any extra depth. I was confused Brother Jerome’s inclusion until the end when Brother Jerome and his music was mentioned in a short little paragraph. Basil and Pastor Mooreland, never lived in Brewster Place, their action just affected the lives of women that lived there. A few characters lived in Brewster Place, including Ben whose story was a repeat from the first book.
The plot of The Men of Brewster Place was disappointing in how all the various storylines came together or failed to come together. The story of the women in The Women of Brewster Place was ultimately how they ended up in Brewster Place, interacted with each other, and how one event tied all their lives together. The Men of Brewster Place failed to provided this connection with the men. Their stories where scattered and seemed to have no purpose at times. And when the climax came I found myself looking back at several of the individual stories and thinking “why were you here?” For example Basil’s story. Basil’s story is important in The Women of Brewster Place but at the end of the book, I could not figure out why he was necessary. It was nice to hear his side of the story about being the cause of his mother ended up in Brewster Place. It was also nice to hear about what happened to him afterwards and how his life panned out. But he had nothing to do with the climax. His story was completely unnecessary. Pastor Mooreland’s action bring about the destruction of Brewster Place but this didn’t bring together any of the character, especially since only Brother Jerome, lived in housing complex at the end of the story.
The men that actually lived in Brewster Place seemed to be the exception to the above rule. All except Brother Jerome no longer resided in Brewster by the end of the story. Ben had escaped through death. One character escape through arrested. Abdshu escaped as a teen and voluntarily returned to the area to help the children still living in Brewster Place. Eugene ran away in the first book. The others never lived there. Naylor provided the men with escapes that weren’t offered to the women. When the story of the women were told they were firmly trapped in Brewster Place. This is one of my greatest disappointments with this book. In The Women of Brewster Place it was almost as if Brewster Place was another character interacting with the other characters effecting the outcomes of there lives. While in The Men of Brewster Place, Brewster Place was just a building and the men where men affecting the lives of the women and children housed in it’s walls, and ultimately those walls themselves.
I got the feeling when I closed the book, that The Men of Brewster Place was the sequel that was never suppose to happen. That the last period of The Women of Brewster Place had been the end of the story of Brewster Place and it’s inhabitants but some publisher somewhere urged her to do one more. And I’m not sure if that publisher should have just left the men of Brewster Place alone.[ Goodreads ]