Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Salt Eaters” as Want to Read:
The Salt Eaters
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Salt Eaters

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  587 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Set in Claybourne, a small town somewhere in the South, THE SALT EATERS is the story of a community of black faith healers who, searching for the healing properties of salt, witness an event that will change their lives forever.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
ebook, 304 pages
Published February 16th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1980)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Salt Eaters, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Joan I don't think she uses that term for women in general, but for a kind of archetypal ancestress who evokes fear in the main character .....
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.75* of five

Wonderful prose, not so much on the storytelling.

I haven't changed my mind on that one, either.

The Book Report: Velma is a healer's worst nightmare: a failed suicide depressed by life and Life. Minnie and Old Wife, who is Minnie's spirit guide, work to heal Velma's wounds both inner and outer, in the course of this novel.

And that, mes amis, is it.

My Review: Which is kinda the problem. It makes this gorgeous incantation of a tale into a pretty tough swallow. Interiority can b
Mar 30, 2008 Medina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women and/or folk of color
Recommended to Medina by: a spelmanite
Shelves: must-re-read
i learned what it really means to be whole, spiritually and emotionally. it helped me transition to a place beyond survival, the choice to live as a (r)evolutionary in full command of my path and purpose.
if your interested, be forewarned, it reads like a poem in that the story is multi-dimensional, metaphysical and symbolically complex.
i intend to re-read.
Kiini Salaam
Jun 07, 2013 Kiini Salaam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was younger, my mother’s bookshelf was my library. It was home to many novels that are central to Black woman’s literature. I could grasp plots that featured grown-up experiences, but much of the subtext and external references escaped me. This didn’t stop me from voraciously consuming everything I could get my hands on for I was too young to know the limits of my comprehension. There was one novel, though, that even the obtuseness of youth failed to carry me through.

There was not much of
Aug 21, 2013 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was one of the first that extended its hand to me and said, see, you can map the real story on the page and - that mix of experience and ideas? It's true. One of the pivotal writers for me who acknowledges and applies her talent to the complexity of consciousness, being a woman and telling a good story.
Jun 07, 2012 Raquel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled through this book. The duration of this book is about a healing. Velma has been running from a gift her whole life and the suicide attempt is her effort to avoid the inevitable. What I do not get is the entire book as a whole. It is disjointed. Some authors are good at writing books that are fractured but some how come together perfectly by the last line. When this novel ended I was dumbfounded and unreleived. Was Bambara tired of writing because she could not pull it together? or Pe ...more
Ryan Mishap
Jan 22, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I had to come back to this one because my first attempt to read it stalled in confusion over the opening scene of a healer attending to a patient while thinking about other things--made it confusing when you didn't know all these people she was talking about. Persevere, though, for the rest of the novel.
Set in a small southern town, this is about a community of black folks and their search for faith healing through salt. Seemingly, but I think the whole story, culminating in a parade/celebrati
Jun 27, 2012 Meen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meen by: All my studies in intersectionality feminism
7/8/12: OK, I'ma have to put this one back on the shelf for a while. It's too complex for my bar prepping brain to handle right now. *sigh*

6/27/12: "...wholeness is no trifling matter."

(Ten pages in and I'm happy I started reading this book just for that line.)
Stark King
I would give this book 3.5 stars. Toni Cade Bambara was a visionary. In the current political climate you may hear a number of people of colour saying to leftist white counterparts that it was about time they started noticing the levels of oppression that POC have been talking about for decades, and this novel is a testament to that. The community in this novel is comprised of people fighting for their lives against institutionalized racism, big business, nuclear waste, and patriarchy. They figh ...more
Mar 30, 2012 Rita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awfully good book and quite troubling. 1980.
In intro to Those Bones, she mentions finishing up The Salt Eaters while she was researching for Those Bones.

The two books are similar in one sense at least, that I find I can't quite follow. Happenings follow each other without clear boundaries so I am often not sure whether it is supposed to have happened the same day or weeks or years later. It's OK, real life isn't clear either.

In both books I struggle to understand what people are saying, or at le
I don't even know where to start... (view spoiler) ...more
Apr 07, 2011 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trippy
This disorienting but vivid novel deserves another read before I write this review. The book's non-linear, poetic style is a deliberate (and clever) way to reflect the protagonist's own healing, which itself involves a meandering backtracking in time before she can deal with the present (and future).
Sep 06, 2007 Tara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wish I could say I fully understand this one. I can say I respect it. Poetic writing style.
Jul 25, 2011 Nicole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
After two tries, I'm abandoning this book. Perhaps if I'd gotten farther along I'd enjoy the nonlinear storytelling.
Mar 05, 2013 Tia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really difficult to follow at times, but some beautiful prose.
Jun 06, 2016 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Major Field Prep: 79/133
"Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?" This opening line, in the voice of healer Minnie Ransom, spoken to the protagonist Velma, sets up the major themes of the novel. The questions of wellness, as an individual, a community, a nation, a world, drives the intersecting plotlines ever towards the center of Minnie and Velma on a healing journey. Wellness, then, is not a randomly acquired state but rather requires work and attention. It is easier to dwell in un
Margaret Carmel
Feb 01, 2015 Margaret Carmel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was assigned this book for one of my classes, the professor informed us that it was one of the most challenging books in contemporary Literature. She herself had to read it nine times to truly understand it.

With that said, this is the first book I ever read that as soon as I finished I immediately wanted to start over and experience it all over again. While the plot takes place over the course of 20 minutes, it takes the reader from this world to the next one through the eyes of many cha
Jun 30, 2016 Azizi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hate that I've given this book such few stars, especially since I really respect Toni Cade Bambara. It's just that I had a tough time understanding everything that was happening, which says more about me than it does about Bambara. I fully intend to re-read the book again next summer, and I want to take a gander at some lit crit about the book. I'm hoping that my second read will be a more enlightened one.

For what it's worth, here is my attempt at a summary of the book.

Velma has tried to comm
Craig Werner
I hadn't read this book for something like twenty years and it still holds up. Among the novelists associated with the emergence of black women's fiction in the 1970s and 1980s, Bambara hasn't received the same attention as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker or Gloria Naylor, but The Salt Eaters is just flat a better book than all but the best of Morrison. Bambara engages the tension between the political and spiritual currents of resistance during the 1970s, taking a serious look at the legacy (for be ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Yve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century, 1980s
I think Toni Cade Bambara is a wonderfully evocative writer, but her rich, elaborate, and highly visual free-flowing passages are most easily digested as short stories. The length makes it a significantly more involved read. Over the course of a novel like the epic "Those Bones Are Not My Child" (which the opinions of this review essentially apply to as well) or this significantly shorter one, there are moments of intense pathos and beauty, but it's often hard to follow the connections between t ...more
Jesse Bullington
May 13, 2009 Jesse Bullington rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A curvy path of steam of consciousness narrative, metaphor, and the supernatural result in a complicated, dense, and satisfying story revolving around several faith healers in a small southern community. these are the literal and literary descendants of conjure practitioners, although I believe I caught some references that were closer to Gullah and Geechee folklore, as well as representations of Loas and even some hints at some West African beliefs. Regardless of one's knowledge of the various ...more
Oct 31, 2007 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"And she wanted to answer Ruby, wanted to say something intelligible and calm and hip and funny so the work could take precedence again. But the words got caught in her back teeth as she shred silk and canvas and paper and hair. The rip and shriek of silk prying her teeth apart. And it all came out a growling."
"Growl all you want, sweetheart. I haven't heard a growl like that since Venus moved between the sun and the earth, mmm, not since the coming of the Lord of the Flames. Yes, sweetheart, I
"Soon's they old enough to start smelling theyselves, they commence to looking for blood amongst the blood. Cutting and stabbing and facing off and daring and dividing up and suiciding. You know as well as I, Old Wife, tha we have bot been scuffling in this waste-howling wilderness for the right to be stupid. All this waste. Everybody all up in each other's face with a whole lotta who struk John-you ain't correct, well you ain't cute, and he ain't right and they ain't scientific and yo mama don' ...more
Nyx Nelson
Feb 16, 2015 Nyx Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is very tough, and I'm not sure I even fully got it, but at the same time it moved me to tears on my first read-through.

Many people don't finish it on the first go, and if I didn't have to read this for a class, I would not have finished it. But I am so glad I did. I began to see so much of myself in Velma (who is being healed after a suicide attempt) that I got scared for my own spiritual and emotional health! It really sparked me to begin making changes in my life.

I'm not going to
Feb 02, 2017 Dewey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, but it wasn't an easy read. The crux of the story (as I interpreted it) was the interconnectedness of everything. The plot is relatively simple--a woman who has attempted suicide undergoes a traditional healing--but the perspective, timeline, and place shift frequently and without warning. I would have liked to read this with a group, just so that we could talk about the details that were confusing.
Lois BL
May 08, 2008 Lois BL rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult read. Toni C.B. used every opportunity in her writing to have what was said, what happened, and character descriptions to mean something profound. Unfortunately, it often went over my head. I wish I had read this book in an African American Literature class so I could discuss and analyze its meanings with a literature scholar and other students. Despite me missing the point, I found her writing beautiful; almost lyrical.
Melisa Mitchell
This book was good, but very challenging and tough to get through. However, I enjoyed how complex it is because of its nonlinear treatment of time and its weaving together of modern and traditional elements, like nuclear physics, hoodoo, traditional healing, chaos theory, and other scientific principals that are quite unexpected to find in a novel like this. (I'm writing a paper on it for a class and am learning a lot about things I never thought I'd have to learn in an English class.)
May 26, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as I remembered from ages ago but I may get back to it. Follows a set of African-American female characters in the South in the mid-70s, just as the bright flame of late 60s revolutionary fervor has died down enough for everyone to notice that life goes on - the world is better but not transformed and the Movement is mired in committees and decision-marking bureaucracy.

Dec 27, 2016 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
unfortunately fell at that point in the break where nothing feels doable, possible—i'd venture to say i read this book without absorbing a word of it—or rather without absorbing what the words were doing, how they were cohering into a plot. read distractedly & worried about my inadequate modes of reading as usual.
Apr 23, 2009 Arby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Between reading student papers, I'm Bambara's
*The Salt Eaters.*

Salt--a very, very important part of the narratives,
poetry, folklore,and etc. of black people of African descent living in the U.S.

Right now, there's a healing taking place, Velma, and
someone very important in her life has just upped and
walked out.

More later--maybe.
May 24, 2016 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right on the cusp of 4 stars, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd been reading more closely and not spread out over two weeks, so I rounded up.

(Content notes: description of sexual assault, misogyny, use of racist slurs in context sort of, and I think there was homophobia or transmisogyny but can't quite remember)
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The F-word: December FICTION selection THE SALT EATERS 4 42 Jan 01, 2017 07:42PM  
Biddle's Book Club: December 2016 - The Salt Eaters 3 2 Jan 01, 2017 06:10PM  
African-American ...: The Salt Eaters: January 15 - February 15 44 25 Feb 15, 2015 01:43PM  
  • Corregidora
  • Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo
  • Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought
  • Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology
  • When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America
  • Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America
  • Abeng
  • Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition
  • Maud Martha
  • Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery
  • Erasure
  • Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays
  • Does Your House Have Lions?
  • The Autobiography of My Mother
  • Philadelphia Fire
  • The Street
  • Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral
  • The Black Unicorn: Poems
Toni Cade Bambara, born Miltona Mirkin Cade (March 25, 1939 – December 9, 1995) was an African-American author, documentary film-maker, social activist and college professor.

Toni Cade Bambara was born in New York City to parents Walter and Helen (Henderson) Cade. She grew up in Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant (Brooklyn), Queens and New Jersey. In 1970 she changed her name to include the name of a West
More about Toni Cade Bambara...

Share This Book

“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.” 18 likes
“I am one beautiful and powerful son of a bitch,' he told himself. 'Smart as a whip, respected, prosperous, beloved and valuable. I have the right to be healthy, happy and rich, for I am the baddest player in this arena or any other. I love myself more than I love money and pretty women and fine clothes. I love myself more than I love neat gardens and healthy babies and a good gospel choir. I love myself as I love The Law. I love myself in error and in correctness, waking or sleeping, sneezing, tipsy, or fabulously brilliant I love myself doing the books or sitting down to a good game of poker. I love myself making love expertly, or tenderly and shyly, or clumsily and inept. I love myself as I love The Master's Mind,' he continued his litany, having long ago stumbled upon the prime principle as a player--that self-love produces the gods and the gods are genius. It took genius to run the Southwest Community Infirmary. So he made the rounds of his hospital the way he used to make the rounds of his houses to keep the tops spinning, reciting declarations of self-love.” 9 likes
More quotes…