Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: "The Taste of Salt" by Martha Southgate

Josie is a marine biologist, one of only a few senior-level black women in her position at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In achieving professional success, she has finally been able to free herself of her childhood in Cleveland, of her alcoholic father and addicted younger brother, and she can spend her time in the ocean, where she loves to be more than anything. But she has never fully disentangled herself from the trauma and disappointments of her childhood, and that has a ripple effect in her personal relationships, including her marriage to Daniel, who is also a marine biologist.

The Taste of Salt is a book about the unending power of addiction and the harm it does not only to the addicts, but to those around them. But more than that, this is a book about relationships, about allowing yourself to feel worthy of love, to express your emotions, and trust those around you. The book is narrated mostly by Josie, with chapters told by each of her parents, her brother, and her husband, and it is tremendously compelling.

Martha Southgate, author of the fantastic The Fall of Rome (which isn't about the ancient Romans), has written another terrific book filled with complex characters and beautiful prose. Like the ocean that Josie loves, where what appears on the surface is only a glimpse at the complexities that lie beneath, Josie's relationships and her way of relating to those in her life are far more complicated than they first appear. While Josie might not appear to be the most sympathetic character at the start of the book, I'd encourage you to keep reading, or you'll miss a well-told story of human emotions and interactions.

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