Best of the new soft-covers; Naylor's fluent, stark novel; The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor. New York: Penguin Books. 192 pp.

In this 1983 American Book Award winner, Gloria Naylor writes with the ease of a songbird. Yet despite such beautiful tones, hers is a melancholy song. The women of Brewster Place are seven blacks of differing backgrounds, surviving on a dead-end street in big-city America. They are women sweet with laughter, compassion, and love, yet soured by continual hardship. Mattie May, the central character, perhaps epitomizes this more closely than the others. A trail of heartbreaks has left her at Brewster Place - with little future. Yet, true to character, she spends little time agonizing over old wounds, and instead comforts others. For its literary quality and deep sensitivity, this book won't disappoint. But occasionally distasteful language and a scene with sexual violence will mar the book for some readers.

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