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Mama Day

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  9,610 ratings  ·  636 reviews
A fascinating novel that reworks elements of Shakespeare's The Tempest. On the island of Willow Springs, off the Georgia coast, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island's darker forces. ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published April 23rd 1989 by Vintage (first published February 1st 1988)
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John Ophelia is sort of lost at first. She's not connected to the traditions and roots that sustain the women of her family. The ending is about whether sh…moreOphelia is sort of lost at first. She's not connected to the traditions and roots that sustain the women of her family. The ending is about whether she can find Peace with herself and who she is, where she comes from.

I think George is supposed to bring back whatever he finds in the coop. All he finds is his hands. So if he could bring those back to Mama Day, it would show that he believes in her path, her wisdom and her way. If he believes in her, then maybe Ophelia could do.

But he doesn't believe in her enough, and he thinks he can fix Ophelia himself. He does, with his death. When George dies on the island, then Ophelia comes back to the island to talk to him, his spirit. The whole book is a conversation between Ophelia and (dead) George. And once she can talk with George, she can start to hear the other spirits and voices of the island, including the Great Grand Mother. George is her "bridge" to her past and her power. (less)

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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  9,610 ratings  ·  636 reviews

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Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-writers
Reread (December 2020): I just finished this book with tears streaming down my face. This story is so precious to me. I love Gloria's writing style. I love how she breathed life into these characters, to the point where Miranda and Abigail are one of my favorite literary characters to have ever been created and I would literally die to have gotten another book about their youth. I love the plot of this book and how captivating it is, like I knew what was going to happen and I was still on the ed ...more
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
When someone asks me what my favorite book is, or wants to know what to read next - I always talk about this book first. Not science fiction or fantasy - so more accessible to my more mainstream reading friends, and yet...

Can I tell you that I cried and cried and cried at the end of this book. Not because the ending is sad - although it is sad, but hopeful too - but because it was over.

The reason I cried so hard was because I would never again get the chance to read it for the first time. It wa
Alicia Beale
May 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
For me, Naylor does the type of magical realism that I can understand. She brings in elements of country lore and mysticalism mixes it with real world stoytelling. When people believe in magic strong and hard through generations, then there is something very real that develops at out it. Also, of course, I like the love story.

People sleep on Glora Naylor.

Naylor keeps the story in contemporary time and doen't go through dozens of generations to tell the story or delves into so much symbolism that
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Every August I read this book from cover to cover. Island magic, the bonds of family, and the power of the past haunt this book.

This is the first year that I truly understood why George needed to bring back his hands to Mama Day in the end. It's that refusal to let go, to fight for what you love, and to overcome your fears and disbelief.
Robert Jr.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A work of genius. Naylor's tremendous intellect and ability to create art are on full display here. These characters are so diligently and delicately rendered that you love them, fear them, miss them, and mourn for them. I almost didn't want the book to end.

I was both heartbroken by the tragedies and by the fact that I finished the book.

Excellent, excellent, excellent.
May 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with heart
Wow. I could not put this book down -- started out a bit piecy and confusing, but as the plot progressed I found myself reading with one eye open as I fell asleep at night just to soak in more of the story. It's told in the first-person point of view of three different characters and I found it especially interesting to read two points of view to the same situation. Reading this book was like finding myself at home, listening to people I have known all my life but only just met. I cannot recomme ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day was a small homecoming, a spiritual event, a celebration of black women and their power, a love story, and a lesson in being your better self. About a woman, the descendent of descendants of seven sons of seven sons before them born to an emancipated slave, who finds love and brings him home to visit, this book has all the comfort of down home folks, and all the darkness that can lurk inside and outside of memory, and the outcomes of acts so tempestuous they are like hur ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Re-read 11/25/19-4/12/20

Re-read for book club 7/4- /16

Read 7/23-27/14: I'm sitting here, at a loss for what to say about this book. Because anything I can express in words would just not be enough to convey what this book means and how it has affected me. Wow.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a really mixed read for me. On the one hand, Naylor writes a wonderful, hilarious character in Mama Day, a 90-year-old respected healer on the small Georgia island she lives on. She and her sister Abigail carry a sorrowful history between them, but manage a productivity that rivals people half their age--and with a lot of humor.

And then there's Cocoa/Ophelia, Abigail's granddaughter, and her beau George. Cocoa and George live in New York City, and could not be more stereotyped and borin
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, group-reads, 2017
I loved Mama Day, Abigail and the island in general. But, I didn't like George and found Cocoa absolutely loathsome. I already hated her and then she did the thing with the vase. Not acceptable. At all. If I were George, I would have been on the phone with the nearest divorce lawyer.

I don't necessarily need to like the main character to like a book, but when I find them utterly appalling and I'm supposed to like them, that's a big, big problem for me.

I know my antipathy was bad when I started ch
Aubrey Coletti
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this, I really did. But honestly, if I hadn't been reading it for book club, I probably wouldn't have finished it. It's very hard to follow, especially in the beginning, because it frequently alternates narrators and the narrators alternate their style of narration. For instance, Mama Day might go from calling Cocoa "Cocoa" to calling her "you." The threads of the family's history that are woven into the story seemed important, but they are so vague that I feel like I missed the ...more
Mama Day is like a song. It begins slowly enough - we follow the daily life of elderly Mama Day and her sister, Abigail; we meet Abigail's granddaughter, Cocoa, a New Yorker in her 20s who returns to the island of Willow Springs every August; we hear murmurings about the slave woman from whom the Days descended; we learn about the sister of Mama Day and Abigail, who died in her youth and left their mother mentally unwell. There is a sense of spiritual stirrings on the island, but Mama Day takes ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
third time reading this Novel and i think ive finally discovered what draws me back to it every year , The way it speaks to my belief system! Excellent story , unforgettable characters & Great Magic
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I made the mistake of not writing my review immediately after finishing this book, nor right after book club -- so a full month later, let's see how much I can remember!

Mama Day is a lovely little jaunt of magical realism, set between New York City and a small, sleepy island town off the coast of Georgia/South Carolina. The narrative trades off between two alternating narrators, a black woman and black man dissecting their history and their relationship. The eponymous "Mama Day" is the narrator'
Mar 26, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindleunlimited
Boring, confusing. DNF
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the writing and thought this was headed for a 5 for a while, but the ending left me with too many questions, and I don't feel that the book fully delivered on the awesome backstory it hinted at. Worth the read, though. Review to come. ...more
Ananya Ghosh
So, this was overdue a long time! I began reading it before exams and despite myself, had to put it down a little before the ending. I do not have a specific genre I prefer to read, but this is just my kind of a book. I cannot give it any less than 4.5/5. Even though people might criticise it for being slow, the story did have a lot of weight to carry itself. It spans a total of eight generations and is based in the island of Willow Springs where the belief in magic is deep-rooted. It is told fr ...more
I'm still processing this book. I may be processing forever. I think it's one of those stories that will continue to haunt me for years to come, thoughts of a slow fall or lavender water popping into my mind when I'm doing the laundry, or protecting Ophelia from the rain.

I don't know what to think about this book because I don't know that it even made me think. But it surely made me feel. I feel sadness. I feel gratitude. I feel love. I feel sentimental and heartbroken over things I shouldn't e
Regina Modesta
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book at least three times, and I never get tired of thinking back on George and Coco's intense relationship and all the wonderful, terrible, and enchanting things that happen on the island of Willow Springs. This story is fundementally about good vs evil/love vs hate, but it's told in a unique and haunting way. By the end of the story you'll both wish you could and thank God you can't ever go to Naylor's fictional island. The quirky, likable, yet deeply flawed characters and their ...more
Kristen Pirollo
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. It’s rare that I get to read for pleasure mid-semester and, while this was part of my curriculum, it was so thoroughly enjoyable and didn’t feel like work. Naylor is deceptively simplistic and has a great sense of humor. Definitely want to read more of her
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is vivid and deep, a lot going on. The language is denser than it appears at first glance, and so is the action. There's just a lot here, a lot that's good. I enjoyed it quite a bit. ...more
Nov 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a great novel! It's a complex story that has themes in equal weighting between a love story, supernatural happenings, generational conflicts, and the dynamic definition of the word "family". The author has a wonderful writing style that paints a very detailed picture of the surroundings and situations without being too wordy. That's probably why the story can be so complex without being overwhelming. There is so much covered in this book, that I'd recommend it to anyone.

I really liked h
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a quietly magical and devastating novel about family, magic, and failed relationships. Cocoa and her husband George; the ethereal Mama Day, the tragic Miranda; and the evil Ruby who casts her wicked spell on Cocoa all invigorate and speak in gorgeous cadences that serve the reader through interior and dramatic monologues. A beautiful tribute to Shakespeare's The Tempest, and other Biblical allusion; it's a magical and ultimately bittersweet novel that is bitter, and satisfying at the las ...more
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-american
I loved this book and saved it for my own bookshelf. I found the relationship in the beginning of the book tedious, but I do not like relationship stories, so I searched the book and found the part that begins with their experience on the island, and that is why I thoroughly enjoyed the book and consider it one of my favorites.
4.5 stars. I wanted to give this five stars, but it just wasn't at that level. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved it. An amazing piece of work. A slow burn; beautifully written and wonderfully realized. This is how I like my magical realism: light and subtle. Loved it! Will definitely re-read in the future! ...more
Feb 25, 2010 marked it as to-read
Just finished reading this for the 2nd time. Slightly confused by the ending, and saddened by the outcome, but I still love Ms. Naylor's humor and skillful collaboration of the mundane and the supernatural. ...more
This book is like someone you didn't like at first who then becomes your best friend and then you lose the friendship and cry.
I want to coin the term Reader's Grief, just for this book.
I wish I could go to the world these pages have created over and over. The characters are so lifelike, they spring out of the pages, they grip you tight, they will haunt my thoughts and dreams. I didn't know what I was getting myself into, I didn't know I would dive so deep that I would lose my breath in this lo
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, black-writer
Mama Day is an amazing novel in the magical realism genre. Ophelia “Cocoa” Day is descended from a mysterious formerly enslaved women who was deeded the island of Willow Springs. Belonging to neither South Carolina nor Georgia, the island and its all-black community are left to their own devices. But Cocoa has left her birthplace for the grit and glamor of NYC, where before she meets George she experiences the challenges of finding work and finding love in the city as a single black woman.

This s
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2013
I had a really had time getting through this book. It's difficult to rate it and review it, because the writing is actually beautiful. The sentences go down like milk and honey. So the writing itself is lovely. And the premise (magical realism with a touch of voodoo) is great and gripping.

So what exactly did I have problem with? Well.... I didn't like the fact that you know the ending from the beginning. So there is no real mystery. Yet, the story unfolds like a mystery, but it can't be too mys
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Gloria Naylor was an African-American novelist whose most popular work, The Women of Brewster Place, was made into a 1984 film starring Oprah Winfrey.

Naylor won the National Book Award for first fiction in 1983 for The Women of Brewster Place. Her subsequent novels included Linden Hills, Mama Day and Bailey's Cafe. In addition to her novels, Naylor wrote essays and screenplays, as well as the stag

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