Monday, November 28, 2011

book review: The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate

The backstory: I first heard about Martha Southgate when reading her essay in The Help issue of Entertainment Weekly this summer. (Regular readers may recall I didn't love The Help.) When Jen and Nicole announced The Taste of Salt would be the pick for their November book club, I jumped at the chance to read it and discuss it (the full discussion--spoilers abound--is here.)

The basics: The Taste of Salt is the story of Josie, a black scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It is also the story of Josie's family, their burden of addiction, and growing up in Cleveland.

My thoughts: I sat down to begin The Taste of Salt one morning two hours before I needed to leave for work (I'm an increasingly early riser.) I did not move from the couch, not even to make another cup of coffee, and I contemplated staying to finish it. I decided to risk reading the last twenty pages on the bus because I couldn't be late, and I couldn't bear to not know how the novel ended. The Taste of Salt is incredibly readable; I breezed through it in a few hours. I read it compulsively and Southgate wowed me with the scope of this slim novel. As I sat down to write this review, I found my list of favorite passages were almost all filled with spoilers. It's beautiful to read a novel whose best parts are its most lyrical and its most plot-based.

Favorite passage: "When Daniel came along, I was dating a bartender who enjoyed his wares a bit too much--our relationship was on its last, unsteady legs. I don't even quite know how I got involved with a guy like that. He was good in bed; he had the kind of authority that you sometimes find in men who don't think too much. That can keep you going for awhile. But not forever. Daniel came along, same field, same smarts, those kind blue eyes that could not stop gazing at me. What could I say? What could I do? I went with him. I love him. I mean, I love him."

The verdict: It is both a testament and a detriment to Martha Southgate's compelling characters and fluid writing that I blew threw this novel. There is certainly much to be savored, and I'm pleased to discover a new favorite author with a backlist of novels to enjoy. The Taste of Salt moved me. It was an incredibly personal read, and while it may not be one that appeals to all readers, I hope it finds its much-deserved larger audience.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 272 pages
Publication date: September 13, 2011
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Taste of Salt from Amazon in paperback or for the Kindle (it's only $8.51!).

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  1. This does sound like a good one Carrie. Glad u found it enjoyable.

  2. Oooh, wow -- I had scratched this one after a few lukewarm reviews but you've got me all curious about it again -- esp since you gobbled it up so quickly!

  3. Your review does indeed intrigue, and makes me think that I have been too hasty in passing this one up. I loved that quote that you shared and I think I need to read this one when I can. It sounds like a very moving book! Fantastic review today!

  4. Well, you and I completely agree on this one, Carrie! Like you, I read this one quickly - loved the writing, loved the pacing. I also would love to read more Southgate books!

  5. Wow, great review! I love the title, love the quote and I can't believe you read it so quickly!

  6. When a book grabs me like this I am so happy! Based on the quote that you were able to share (without spoilers) I think I would enjoy this author's style!

  7. I've been lukewarm over this one but your review makes me want to read it. I get up really early too so that I can read. I can see missing work but skipping another cup of coffee??? It had to be good :)


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