The salt eaters

by Toni Cade Bambara

Paper Book, 1980


Checked out



New York : Vintage Books, 1981, c1980.


Set in a town somewhere in the South, here is the story of a community of black people searching for the healing properties of salt who witness an event that will change their lives forever. Some of them are centered, some are off-balance; some are frightened, and some are daring. From the men who live off welfare women to the mud mothers who carry their children in their hides, the novel brilliantly explores the narcissistic aspect of despair and the tremendous responsibility that comes with physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
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 be overdone. Bambara's enraged response to the world of 1980 (when this wa first published) was perfectly justified, as she saw coming the horrors we presently live through in the never subtle, never hidden class warfare counterattack begun after Nixon's crash and burn. Velma is a computer programmer, a telling detail that Bambara clearly wants to remain a detail, who can't cope with the workload...prescient much?...and whose entire world centers around *yawn* an unworthy man *cue 21st-century Serious Lady Lit music* so she loses her inner Old Wife just like Minnie did.

Minnie is a daughter of privilege, a former Bible college attendee, and now a root woman who talks to haints. I love Minnie and Old Wife with a passion! They are the kind of ladies I want to live next door to, so I can go over with a plate of blondies and a bottle of bourbon and talk about Life to them.

But loving them, and loving the loooooooooooooong internal monologues that Minnie and Old Wife share as they work to heal dull little Velma, does not make this book a novel. In French, it would be called a récit: a simple internal narrative, usually in past tense, with one PoV. It's an excellent récit, and a ~meh~ novel.

Recommended for language lovers, Southerners, and white people wondering what the fuss about African American literature is.
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LibraryThing member terese
this is beautiful. i need to read it again sometime to really grasp everything.


Original publication date


Physical description

295 p.; 19 cm


0394750500 / 9780394750507
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