THE MEN OF BREWSTER PLACE by Gloria Naylor

THE MEN OF BREWSTER PLACE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The inevitable sequel to Naylor’s unaccountably successful The Women of Brewster Place (1982) is comprised, like its predecessor, of a collection of linked portraits of the inhabitants of the urban housing project denoted by its title. A character who died in that earlier novel, Ben the janitor, is resurrected (as a blithe prefatory note explains) to share the narration with an omniscient lyrical overvoice that seems to be the “spirit” of Brewster Place. A prelude and postlude entitled “Dusk” and “Dawn” bracket eight vignettes, beginning with Ben’s own story: Brought up in Tennessee by grandparents who were born slaves, he has suffered indignities representative of all the wrongs visited on black people throughout this century. “Brother Jerome” is a retarded youngster who’s a blues pianist savant (a concept that Naylor leaves undeveloped); “Basil” is an ex-con who seeks to atone for his past by caring for an indifferent welfare mother’s fatherless boys; “Abshu” (born Clifford Jackson) is a playwright and community activist whose life is given direction by his hatred for a greedy, politically ambitious minister’so it goes. Here and there, Naylor contrives an interesting character or promising situation (“Moreland T. Woods,” the story of that minister, an Adam Clayton Powell clone, is nicely plotted and effectively connected to “Abdshu”). But the majority of these stories feature ludicrous melodramatic climaxes (“Eugene,” about a closeted homosexual husband and father, is a particularly glaring example), or vacuous clichÇs (“What does it mean to be a man?”; “. . . for the sons of Brewster Place, there would always be the blues”), or both. And Naylor ends it all with a gush of sappy sentimentalism that would do Danielle Steel proud. Unimaginative, maudlin commercial fiction from one of the most overrated writers around. (First printing of 200,000; author tour)

Pub Date: April 20th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7868-6421-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998




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