The Salt Eaters chronicles the mental crisis of Velma Henry, a community activist, and efforts to restore her to health. Minnie Ransom is the faith healer who employs nontraditional methods to mend her disturbed client. The treatment takes place in a medical facility where skeptical interns and traditional medical professionals witness the healing as if in attendance at a theatrical performance. Velma, shaky, dirty, vulnerable, and underdressed in a hospital gown, is seated before the aged healer Minnie, who is swaddled in flowing robes and adorned in handcrafted ornaments. Face to face they appear in stark contrast: young and old, naked and clothed, insane and sane. The initial response of their audience to the scene is one of boredom as changes do not occur quickly enough for them to record on their clipboards, but the slow pace of the healing allows Velma, in a series of flashbacks, to review events leading up to her breakdown.
Renowned for its experimental form, the novel avoids a strict chronological approach to narration. Instead it allows portions of random events to appear, some coherent and indicative of Velma’s earlier cogent sensibility, and some verging on the incomprehensible, revelatory of her break with reality. It is a journey through, and a record of, the mental landscape of a woman whose life’s mission is noble (to revive a black community through positive social action) but who faces opposition so brutal and destructive...
(The entire section is 513 words.)