The Salt Eaters Summary

The Salt Eaters is a 1980 novel centered on Velma Henry, a Black American woman who is struggling to juggle her family, career, and commitment to social activism.

  • Velma is in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. She is treated by Minnie Ransom, a woman revered for her supernatural healing abilities.
  • Velma’s thoughts reveal the fragmented state of her marriage and of what had formerly been the Black Power movement.
  • Meanwhile, the Black community prepares to celebrate a spring festival, and a storm sweeps through town. Velma ultimately begins to heal.

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Salt Eaters, by Toni Cade Bambara, is set in Georgia in the 1970s, and it tells the story of an African American woman named Velma Henry. Velma is a political activist in her forties who has become depressed and disillusioned with her fight for civil rights and her constant battle against oppression. After a failed suicide attempt, she goes to the Southwest Community Infirmary to heal, and despite the fact that she is in a traditional medical environment, she experiences a spiritual healing with the aid of a woman named Minnie Ransom and her spirit guide, Old Wife. Though multiple subplots run through the novel, the main plot revolves around Velma’s healing process, which enables her to let go of her fear and rage. With Minnie’s guidance, Velma recounts memories of the past and recovers folk wisdom that helps her embrace her African American self and get back a part of her that was devalued in the face of oppression.

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