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.