The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories by Gloria Naylor
Published Date: 1982
African American Fiction | Classic Fiction | Literary Fiction | Women’s Fiction |
The simplest description of Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place is the story of seven women inhabiting Brewster Place. “A novel in seven stories” but that description is not the best one to use for The Women of Brewster Place. It’s hard to adequately describe The Women of Brewster Place, the seven stories aren’t separate individual stories. The Women of Brewster Place is one complicated story about the past, present, and future of women whose lives are shaped by a world that they can’t fully control. Lives complicated by friends, family, men, children, politics, race, and gender.
The Women of Brewster Place starts with a chapter titled Dawn and it tells the story of origins of Brewster Place. Brewster Place transitions from housing an Irish population to Mediterraneans, and finally “colored” or Blacks. In this five-page chapter Naylor masterfully laid the foundation for readers to understand what Brewster Place was and how its origin and history affected it’s residents. Naylor descriptions of Brewster Place makes readers believe that the authors thinks of the housing development as almost a person. Brewster Place takes on the position as an eight character.
The other characters in the story, the seven women of Brewster Place were all as unique as the housing development was itself. Which is sign of Gloria Naylor’s strength as a writer. With seven individual main characters it’s expected some of them would have a hard time with finding their own voice. Readers might expect to confuse the women or at points in the story for them all to sound the same. Not these women, Mattie, Etta, Kiswana, Lucielia, Cora Lee, Lorraine, and Theresa all had strong individual voices. Each of these women makes an impress on the reader. As the women enter and exit scenes there is no wondering “who is this again?” “what did she do?” The women are different ages and histories that are smoothly woven into the narrative that is The Women of Brewster Place.
Naylor gives each of to the women, expect Lorraine and Theresa, their own voice. Readers learn how they ultimately end residing in Brewster Place. With Mattie the reader meets her as she is moving into Brewster Place and then Naylor transports readers back in time to Tennessee. From Tennessee readers that a thirty year journey with her as she becomes on of Brewster Place “Afric” children, well past her youth. Mattie story starts with an encounter with Butch and from the start readers know he will be responsible for Mattie’s ultimate arrival at Brewster Place but not how. In a why Mattie and Butch’s encounter was a reverse Adam and Eve, instead of an apple they had sugarcane.
Mattie has the strongest story because it is the most detailed, one of the longest. The other stories are little glimpses of major events in characters lives. These glimpses provide readers with all they need to know about the women. Like how Kiswana moved to Brewster Place somewhat voluntarily to change it for the better. Cora Lee obsession with dolls as a child ends up with her having eight children when readers are introduced to her. Tennessee was not ready Etta, a lover of adventure and men. Lorraine and Theresa searched for a place they can just be themselves in peace. Each of these individual stories moves the events in overall story of Brewster Place forward to the climax and the end. All the stories belong and none of them feel forced.
There are no words to adequately describe Gloria Naylor writing. It is masterful, beautiful, and consistent throughout. She expertly crafts each story and leaves the reader in awe with her style. Even while giving readers large bits of information she avoids making it an information dump. She weaves all the information seamlessly into the narrative. Readers learns the information they need to keep the story moving and keep them turning the pages. Every page contains a carefully crafted sentence or paragraph that left me in awe.
Oprah made The Women of Brewster Place into a mini series in 1989. It has been a few years since I have seen the mini series but it didn’t do the book justice. I’m looking forward to reading the followup, The Men of Brewster Place, even though I have been warned it is not as strong.