Friday, March 9, 2012

The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker

My manager discovered this book for me one day while we were looking through the Ingram book release magazine for March, and I immediately marked it as a definite "to be read ASAP" book.  And what do you know, just a few days later, it appeared magically in my hands one day while putting out new releases in my store.  It was an effort to be patient until I could go home and begin this tale.  After all, it has one of my favorite things in life in the title:  salt.


Once again I've fallen into the sister theme this year, but I don't mind with this book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about two sisters, Jo and Claire, who grow up on a salt farm outside the small town of Prospect on Cape Cod.  Jo is the eldest, and works herself hard every day gathering the salt from the ponds her family has created over the decades.  It's women's work, and men do not last long as Gillys:  there's a small graveyard nearby with all the graves of those males in the family who've died too young.  


And there's the townspeople, who gather every December Eve to burn a huge bonfire, then have one of the Gilly sisters throw salt on the fire to see how what the future holds.  They firmly believe there's magic in the salt, and ruin will come to anyone who does not use the salt at home or in their business.  The Gilly sisters are not a welcome part of the community, but a necessary part of it.


Claire wants nothing to do with the salt farm.  She's pretty, vivacious, and hates salt.  The love of her teen years shatters her heart, and she's quickly swept up by Whit Turner, the son of the leading family in town.  Whit and Jo have a past that went sour, and now Whit has become the latest Turner to want the salt farm, convinced all his problems will be solved if he owns it. 


The novel meanders around, from Jo and Claire's early childhood in the 40's and 50's to the early 80's.  Dee, a young teen who arrives in town with her father, quickly becomes part of the tangled history of the Gilly sisters and Whit Turner.  Her story is what carries the book forward, and offers the Gilly sisters a chance at forgiveness and healing.


This is a novel reminiscent of Alice Hoffman; no one really knows what magic the salt holds, and what the faceless Virgin Mary at the local church can really do for those women who leave offerings and light candles in prayers to her.  I liked the timelessness of Prospect, the two sisters who are so very different, and most of all, the salt.  This is not table salt, but gray, red, and pure white snow flake salt that tastes different to everyone, and evokes different memories when it touches the lips.  Who knew salt could be so mysterious?


Rating:  3/5:
An entertaining, light novel that is a quick read.  

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