Bailey’s Cafe by Gloria Naylor

bailey' cafe

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Set in a diner where the food isn’t very good and the ambience veers between heaven and hell, this bestselling novel from the author of Mama Day and The Women of Brewster Place is a feast for the senses and the spirit. “A virtuoso orchestration of survival, suffering, courage and humor.”

This is a really hard book to review. I read it years ago and didn’t *quite* understand it.

This book – like The Women of Brewster Place – is set up as a series of short stories about individual characters and what brought the character to Bailey’s Cafe or Eve’s Boarding house for women (both places are “at a crossroads” and can only be located by a person in the crossroads of their life). Unlike The Women of Brewster Place, Bailey’s Cafe isn’t quite as well structured and feels very disjointed to me.

The characters are mostly engrossing, the stories are all extremely sad and mostly deal with women who have been abused sexually, physically, mentally or all three. The most haunting one that I remember was about a young girl who was so beautiful that she was molested by her father and treated as a sexual object until she scarred her own face.

What made this book strange and hard to get was the “magical” side of both Eve’s boarding house (aka whore-house) and Bailey’s Cafe. The magical system was not well developed or explained and came across as very unformed.

The ending was – as par for the course with Naylor – rather sad but surprising in the way Naylor ended the book. That part, I still don’t get or really understand but it rang true to type (female genital mutilation, fear and death).So. Two and a half stars because the characters themselves are well written but the magical system issues, the disjointed storyline and the ending all kill the book for me. If someone can give me a better understanding of the ending of the book…I’d be interested.

NOTE: If the name “Bailey” sounds familiar to you, he is the son of one of the women in The Women of Brewster Place. I just can’t remember which.

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