A Cure for Dreams

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Kaye Gibbons’ third novel, like her first, the much-acclaimed ELLEN FOSTER, and her second, A VIRTUOUS WOMAN, explores women’s experiences and perspectives. A CURE FOR DREAMS is narrated by Betty Davies Randolph, a woman who appreciates the strengths that lie in humor and common sense and who respects the need for human kinship. She tells the story of her mother, Lottie O’Cadhain Davies.

The novel is for the most part an account of Lottie’s fierce refusal to let the harsh economics of the Depression, or a dead marriage, squash her delight in living. Having established herself as queen bee in their small rural community, Lottie orchestrates a weekly women’s card game and stays busy solving other people’s problems, with and without consent. Her daughter marks her mother’s every move and learns her mother’s secret ways for being “very wise with people.” Lottie’s resourcefulness is both awe-inspiring for Betty and, later, an impediment to her own emerging identity. In the last sections of the novel, Betty describes her own first attempts at independence, trying to get out from under Lottie’s strong protective wing.

It is rare these days to read a novel in which the language itself—richly metaphorical, homely, genuinely beautiful—assumes the role of protagonist. Through Betty’s voice, Gibbons paints a portrait of daily rural life filled with affection and respect for its hardships, joys, and idiosyncrasies. She also...

(The entire section is 407 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

DeMarr, Mary Jean. Kaye Gibbons: Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Gretlund, Jan. “’In My Own Style’: An Interview with Kaye Gibbons.” South Atlantic Review 65, no. 4 (2000): 132-154.

McKee, Kathryn. “Simply Talking: Women and Language in Kaye Gibbons’s A Cure for Dreams.” Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South 35, no. 4 (1997): 97-106.

Makowsky, Veronica. “Kaye Gibbons.” In The History of Southern Women’s Literature, edited by Carolyn Perry and Mary Louise Weaks. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Tappmeyer, Linda. “Writing and Rewriting: Stories in Kaye Gibbons’ Ellen Foster.” Publications of the Missouri Philological Association 25 (2000): 85-91.