Linden Hills is a jewel of a black-suburban neighborhood, a place where the showplace residents ""could forget that the world said you spelled black with a capital nothing."" But Luther Nedeed, descendant of the original shaper of this dream-community, knows that something has gone wrong here. (""Linden Hills wasn't black; it was successful."") And Naylor probes the ""bright nothing"" of lives in Linden Hills through the ramblings of two young men: Willie Mason, one of the unfavored black poor, who has 665 poems in his head; and Lester Tilson, one of Linden Hills' wild cards. The two friends dip in and out of empty ceremonies, soulless homes, and icy-cold drives, doing odd jobs. Lester is caustic, angry, punishing; Willie is curious, compassionate, feeling for morality's hard ground. They observe the doomed men around them: homosexual Winston, forced into marriage and the Linden Hills mold; Xavier and Maxwell, exquisitely-lifestyled ""Super Niggers"" at General Motors, brooding on the impossibility of marrying black career women. They hear the voices of dissent break through here and there: Rev. Hollis has a drunken atavistic lapse into gutsier truths at a designer-label funeral; Lester's dead grandmother (in memories) warns that ""you can lose yourself in other people's minds."" And meanwhile, in the Nedeed mortuary/basement, a woman dies slowly, learning death beside Luther's dead, white son--with the ""ghostly presence mocking everything the Nedeeds had built."" Naylor intensifies the socio-cultural vision here with myth and symbolic imagery--occasionally becoming a bit shrill in these perhaps-inevitable echoes of Toni Morrison. But her humor, both sad and satiric, is distinctive; Willie and Lester are vital, earthy, boisterously irreverent guides; and, crisper and punchier than Naylor's Women of Brewster Place debut (1982), this is a haunting homiletic--with a cohesive strength of statement concerning black aspiration within a tarnished American Dream.