Brewster Place is a dead-end, inner-city street--and this debut ""novel in seven stories"" portrays its black female residents: ""Like an ebony phoenix, each in her own time and with her own season had a story."" There's Mattie Michael, who let her love for unworthy son Basil stopper-up her life: ""She had carefully pruned his spirit to rest only in the enclaves of her will, and she had willed so little that he had been tempted to return again and again over the last thirty years because his just being had been enough to satisfy her needs."" There's man-needy blues singer Etta Mae Johnson, who's crafty in catching lovers but not in keeping them. And the younger women represented here include Kiswana Browne (a.k.a. Melanie Browne, in rebellion against her middle-class upbringing); the slow-witted, child-loving, baby-producing Cora Lee; Luciella Turner (whose baby died); and Lorraine and Theresa, a lesbian couple ostracized by most of the other women on the block. Naylor has, like Ntozake Shange, well-aimed insights into these women. But the book is virtually plotless--with a rape and an accidental murder packed, amateurishly, into the novel's last section. And Naylor's prose is often far too rhetorical and self-conscious: ""The screams tried to break through her corneas out into the air, but the tough rubbery flesh sent them vibrating back into her brain, first shaking lifeless the cells that nurtured her memory."" Solid observations, then--but delivered with the uncertainties and excesses of a beginning writer.