Oh, this is brilliant. You gotta read this. Naylor, inspired by of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison, tells her tales with compassion, wisdom and an unflinching eye for human weakness, self-delusion and well, evil.
The longest section is the first, about a woman called Mattie, who grew up in the Deep South and is now , despite catching some lucky breaks, basically trapped in a decrepit tenement block. She pops up throughout most of the rest of the stories, sometimes central, sometimes peripheral (or at least, in the background).
Naylor is able to evoke all sorts of mixes of emotions and thoughts with carefully observed snippets of dialogue, of smells, colours, descriptions of furniture, weather, whatever. If you’re a writer, you could do much worse than to model yourself on this.
I struggled to read it at night because, frankly, some of the chapters are extremely bleak (and one near the end, “The Two” should come with a serious trigger warning).
A couple of snippets leapt out at me
She lay down with her son and sank into a timeless sleep. Time’s passage through the memory is like molten glass that can be opaque or crystallise at any given moment, at will: thousand days are melted into one conversation, one glance, one hurt, and one hurt can be shattered shuttered and sprinkled over a thousand days. It is silent and elusive, refusing to be dammed and dripped out day by day; it swirls through the mind while an entire lifetime can ride like foam on the deceptive transparent waves and get sprayed on to the consciousness at ragged, unexpected intervals.
[see also Crista Wolf on memory!)
“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny, and a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over. Matty realised that this moment called for all three.”
Am going to read what else of Naylor’s I can get hold of, obviously.