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Mama Day Paperback – April 23, 1989

4.7 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The beauty of Naylor's prose is its plainness, and the secret power of her third novel is that she does not simply tell a story but brings you face to face with human beings living through the complexity, pain and mystery of real life. But Mama Day is a black story as well as a human story, which is, paradoxically, what makes it such an all-encompassing experience. A young black couple meet in New York and fall in love. Ophelia ("Cocoa") is from Willow Island, off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia but part of neither state, and George is an orphan who was born and raised in New York. Every August, Cocoa visits her grandmother Abigail and great-aunt Miranda ("Mama Day") back home. The lure of New York and the magic of home and Mama Day's folk medicines and mystical powers pull at the couple and bring about unforeseen, yet utterly believable, changes in them and their relationship. Naylor interweaves three simple narratives,Cocoa and George alternately tell about their relationship, while a third-person narrative relates the story of Mama Day and Willow Island. The plot is simple; the mystical events of the novel's second part throw a retrospective glow across the more unprepossessing first part, revealing a cornucopia of spiritual and religious themes throughout. Naylor's (The Women of Brewster Place, Linden Hills) skills as a teller of tales are equal to her philosophical and moral aims.The rhythmic alternation of voices and locales here has a narcotic effect that inspires trust and belief in both Mama Day and Naylor herself, who illustrates with convincing simplicity and clear-sighted intelligence the magical interconnectedness of people with nature, with God and with each other. $100,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild selection; author tour.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Willow Springs is a sparsely populated sea island just off America's southeastern coast whose small black community is dominated by the elderly matriarch, Miranda "Mama" Day. When Mama Day's greatniece, Cocoa, marries, she returns to Willow Springs with her husband for an extended visit. Once there, strange forcesboth natural and supernaturalwork to separate the couple. After visiting the menacing Ruby, a local root doctor, Cocoa becomes dangerously ill, and the struggle for her life showcases Naylor's talent for descriptive prose. Though the novel as a whole fairly breathes with life, it is marred by the unintentionally comic death of a major character, who is attacked by a vicious chicken. This farm boy was not convinced. Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679721819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679721819
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gloria Naylor is a master storyteller. Her characters are vividly drawn, her humor is by turns laugh-out-load funny or subtlely sarcastic, and her prose quite often caused this reader to sit back and savor the sheer creativity, beauty and freshness of the images Ms. Naylor creates.
She uses an interesting narrative technique where two chapters describe the same events, only one is from the perspective of Cocoa and the next from the perspective of George, the niece and 'nephew-in-law' of the title character. This creates a compelling love story, where the reader is allowed into the minds of both participants.
Mama Day, the title character and a wonderfully realized force of nature, is the matriarch of both the Day family and the entire population of Willow Springs, an island loosely a part of the United States but not any particular state.
This setting seems reminiscent of the Gullah Islands, where African-Americans have had freedom, land, and relative isolation since the early 1800's, and it allows Naylor to create characters who appear to be much more victorious over life than in some other novels by African-American authors. This novel is not about suffering with dignity. Rather, the inhabitants of Willow Springs have an idea there's something not quite right with those on the 'mainland', ie the rest of the country. In many ways, they appear to be right!
This is a masterpiece of contemporary literature, a pleasure to experience. "Mama Day" is an entertaining and original look at family, community, and love. With a litte voodoo sprinkled in for good measure.
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Format: Paperback
Mama Day is an exquisitely well-written story! Naylor does a stellar job of giving us a "classical novel" with a complex plot which includes doublings and foreshadowings and the folk tale combination. It's a contemporary love story, a timeless generational saga and tale of the supernatural. The storyline spans two worlds. One is the southern island Willow Springs, inhabited solely by the descendants of slaves a place with its own rules and exempt from many of the racist laws of the mainland. The other world is New York City with its millions of people and what seems like madness everywhere. The two worlds meet when Ophelia aka Cocoa(Willow Springs) and George(New York City) meet and eventually fall in love and get married. Of course, it was the intervention of Mama Day who brought them together. I loved Mama Day the nearly 100 year old great-aunt who helped to raise Cocoa. Mama Day was said to know the working of roots, herbal cures and could summon lightning with her walking stick...uum some thought she could even make lighting strike in the same place twice. Mama Day was wise beyond her days and was said to know the true story of "the great, grand Mother" Sapphira Wade, who in 1823 persuaded her master to deed the island to his slaves and supposedly bore him seven sons in just a thousand days...yeah right she had 7 sons in 2.7 years...hmm...that's definitely supernatural. Anywho then Sapphira Wade went onto to kill her master before she vanished in a burst of flame. And since that event there's been a lot of 18 & 23 going on an enigma of an island called Willow Spring. But while Mama's Day world is steeped in superstition and the supernatural, George's world is one of logic, the present and city life.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Ms. Naylor is the woman!!!! This book was required reading for an undergraduate English class and let me tell you after years and years of required reading this is the only book I felt was worth the time and the money I spent. Ms. Naylor is a great writer. She has such a great sense of character development. She has great descriptions of people and places she has a way of making you feel like you are right there with the characters. I would say this book is almost, better than the Women of Brewster Place, which was an excellent read also. Naylor is a great writer, and this book deserves more than five stars.!!!!!!
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Format: Paperback
I try very hard not to use the word "genius" when describing or reviewing books and stories that I read because I think it takes genius to recognize genius. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a genius.
Words almost fail me when trying to think of something to write that will make others understand what I mean and what I FEEL about this book, this story.
I read it slowly because that is the way the story unfolded to me. It couldn't be rushed. It refused to be rushed because there was so much it had to tell. The simplicity of it is what makes it so ethereal and larger than life. Gloria Naylor has a grip and taskmaster like command of language and can bend and shape it to her will. This book has left an indelible mark on my psyche, my soul. The love story was just one component of the book and not even the best part, but the story as a whole wraps itself around you tightly. It rocks you gently and leaves you reeling. Just like finding a lover such as that, I know it will be a long time before I find another story that touches me so deeply.
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Format: Paperback
Never have I ever read a novel so richly fulfilling to the human soul, and to the human sense of what matters in life as "Mama Day."
Readers beware: this book is best for those weary souls who have succumbed to sarcasm, cynicism and pessimism growing like weeds around the heart.
Naylor may begin her story with a little island called Willow Springs, and she may tempt us and draw us in with promises of adventure, history, a search for long-buried treasure and mystery, but ultimately this book is about faith. It is not your everyday brand of faith that may be conjured when it seems there is a hardship abrewing. No, this is the type of deep down, didn't-know-you-had-it-still-burning-within-you, long forgotten, but still important brand of faith in humanity, and in love which makes each day worth living. Lots of us have lost it. Lots of us have forgotten that it makes this life a lot easier to live. Lots of us have given up on ever seeing it again.
However, with Naylor's stunning, and accurate comprehension of the way love exists between two hearts, no soiled soul will go untilled. It is almost as if Miss Gloria had the privilege of serving an internship with love itself at an early age. She writes what we think. She writes what we feel. She does all this, sometimes, before we have ever thought it or felt it. She does this without knowing if we ever have thought it or felt it. But when you put this book down, you will think it, you will feel it.
The way that Naylor dualistically narrates this book, whether it is an exchange between George and Cocoa, or a discourse between Mama Day and Cocoa, gives us the chance to believe that the same center exists at the core of every human soul.
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