BAILEY'S CAFE by Gloria Naylor
Kirkus Star


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Here, Naylor's limbo, peopled by tortured beings ""at the hopeless crossroods of [their] lives,"" is a darkly lyrical, both sad and warming, psychic way-station--an American backstreet cafe with terrible food, no cheering camaraderie, and a door that empties into nowhere--or, even scarier, Somewhere. Bailey (not his real name), who runs the cafe with his tough, silent partner Nadine, offers a few autobiographical ""tidbits"" and knows he's at the grill for the same reason the cafe's customers come in from everywhere. These are people on the edge who need a space to ""take a breather."" These are the hurt, the deeply wounded. Even the ""one-note players""--like a Bible-shouter and a pimp--""got a life underneath."" Then there are the life-crippled victims: the lady Sadie, a decaying prostitute, scoured by cruelty;, Sweet Esther, who tends perverts and white roses in the dark; Peaches the nympho; and Jessie the druggie, ""robbed"" of husband and son. The women live with Eve in her boardinghouse by a garden, where visiting men must buy flowers for entrance. Eve, born of Delta dust, expelled from her home with Godfather (Bible emanations bobble here and there), gives some women a place to stay, is severe, fair, and can create hell. Also at Eve's is ""Miss Maple,"" a brilliant young man--an American superachiever, rejected and humiliated because he's black. (Once, he--like some others--steps out the cafe's backdoor into the void, ""since the place sits right on the margin between the edge of the world and infinite possibility."") And what could cause the souls in limbo to clap and sing? A richly melodic telling of sad tales--of innocence outraged and civilization smothered--and, again, as in Naylor's Mama Day (1988) and Linden Hills (1985), with a satiric glint and a generous dollop of the supernatural, plus the chill of apocalyptic voices.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0679748210
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich