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The Taste of Salt [Kindle Edition]

Martha Southgate
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Award-winning novelist Martha Southgate (who, in the words of Julia Glass, “can write fat and hot, then lush and tender, then just plain truthful and burning with heart”) now tells the story of a family pushed to its limits by addiction over the course of two generations.

Josie Henderson loves the water and is fulfilled by her position as the only senior-level black scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In building this impressive life for herself, she has tried to shed the one thing she cannot: her family back in landlocked Cleveland. Her adored brother, Tick, was her childhood ally as they watched their drinking father push away all the love that his wife and children were trying to give him. Now Tick himself has been coming apart and demands to be heard.

Weaving four voices into a beautiful tapestry, Southgate charts the lives of the Hendersons from the parents’ first charmed meeting to Josie’s realization that the ways of the human heart are more complex than anything seen under a microscope.

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Editorial Reviews


One of O: The Oprah Magazine's "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"

"[A] searing, gorgeous, brilliant and profoundly human novel about two generations of an African American family riding the slow-mo roller coaster of addiction." San Francisco Chronicle

"Four voices tell this poignant story, making each page ache with a different shade of loneliness." —People

"In The Taste of Salt, Southgate writes with a minor-key melancholy that comes on softly, but lingers long after." —Entertainment Weekly

"[The Taste of Salt] hauntingly explores how the mistakes people make affect everyone around them." —

"One of our favorite authors delves into a taboo topic: alcoholism in the Black community . . . Southgate is one of our most reliable tour guides inside the minds of fictitious Black rebels and outsiders . . . In a virtuoso balancing act, [she] tells [a] poignant story." —Essence

"A steady undercurrent of raw, complex emotions keeps the pages turning." —Bust Magazine

"Southgate brings a thoughtful intelligence to her downbeat tale." —Christian Science Monitor

"With compassion and a quiet grief, Southgate examines the ways families self-destruct even as they try to hold it together." —BookPage

"Southgate's arresting, fluid prose and authentic dialogue come together in a resonating study of relationships . . . A fascinating story that shows how the mistakes people make affect all those around them." —Publishers Weekly

"A compassionate, complex, and concentrated novel, tenderly powerful, that explores family bonds that last long after the family is dispersed." —Booklist

"Southgate does a wonderful job of telling Josie's story, touching on racism, sexism, alcoholism, and emotional infidelity . . . A good, attention-grabbing read."  —Library Journal


“Martha Southgate’s latest novel is a compelling story about how we fight to keep our pasts from dictating our futures; it is also a poignant exploration of the legacies our families leave us and the dangers of trying to deny them.” —Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

Product Details

  • File Size: 305 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (September 13, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,533 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
I don't tend to read a lot of literary fiction, in part because I've found some of it to be challenging to read. It sometimes takes a while to get into the story. Not so with Martha Southgate's excellent novel The Taste of Salt, which pulls you immediately into Josie's story, and, gradually, the rest of the characters'. Through alternating viewpoints, she paints a vivid portrait of Josie's love of the ocean and her job, her thoughts on marriage and monogamy and intimacy.

Anyone who's ever loved an addict or alcoholic will appreciate the complexities of that relationship that Southgate explores doubly, via Josie's brother and her father. Josie is at the heart of this book, and while in many ways this is her story, it's not solely hers, and Southgate forces the reader to look at her world from various perspectives without judging them. The writing is poetic and beautiful (there is a line that says, "She tasted of bitter orange sorrow.") but never unintelligible, going back to my chief complaint about some literary fiction. I read this book in a weekend and was left not unsatisfied, exactly, but definitely could have kept reading about Josie and her journey.

I liked that Josie challenged a lot of cultural norms; she didn't go along with things just because she was supposed to, from her career to her marriage. Southgate presents a snapshot of a marriage that's in trouble and could possibly be saved, without laying the blame for those troubles on either party. There is also a reverence for books, especially how they transformed Josie's father, Ray, that is particularly moving, and felt like a mini story within a larger story. There are many of those mini stories that are more than just scenes or setups or backgrounds; in Southgate's words, they are almost complete in and of themselves, and many I found myself rereading to fully capture them. This is a beautiful, haunting book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant... August 19, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Martha Southgate's The Taste of Salt is a sensitive story centered on a woman attempting to save herself from her family and the serious repercussions that develop from her self-imposed separation. Josie is an accomplished marine biologist from Cleveland, Ohio raised modestly in a hard-working middle-class family; her father is largely a self-taught retired auto worker, her nurse mother is the daughter of a doctor. She and her younger, good-looking and popular brother (Tick) bonded in early childhood as their father slowly surrendered to alcoholism. Josie, the child, immerses herself in books and extra-curricular activities to avoid a miserable home life. It is no wonder, that the same pattern of escapism continues into adulthood as Josie pursues a successful career, a myriad of lovers and continually distances herself from her family - physically, emotionally, and mentally. Unfortunately, Tick, having succumbed to alcoholism in his early teens, battles his demons and loses, hitting rock bottom (again). Worlds collide when Tick shows up unexpectedly at his sister's door forcing Josie to deal with her issues up close and personal.

At its core, The Taste of Salt, examines the effects that alcoholism has on any family. Its venom makes all loved ones victims destroying each relationship at various speeds. Although initially Josie seems to be the protagonist, the author tells the story in shifting first-person narratives from other key characters to provide insight into their heads and hearts. It is here in these snippets of memory we learn of difficult childhoods, broken dreams and disappointments and the never-ending hopes for healing.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a Reading Good Books review. September 7, 2011
The Taste of Salt is a story of Josie and her family's struggles with alcoholism and addiction. Josie Henderson is a successful marine biologist originally from landlocked Cleveland, Ohio. She now works and resides near the coast with her husband Daniel. One day, she was asked by her mother to return to Cleveland to fetch his younger brother, Tick, from his second stint at rehab. Addiction is not new to Josie. Their father, a recovering alcoholic, was estranged from the family when Josie was 17. She tried to get away from it all but it seems to be catching up on her. Struggling with her own issues, Josie must learn to cope and open up to the people around her and make peace with those who had wronged her.

I found it easy to fall into this book. It starts off with Josie talking about diving, the water, and marine biology -- three things that are very close to my heart. I found myself relating and agreeing with her a lot. She's very intelligent and practical. I also loved her father. Yes, he was an alcoholic but he is an example that you can overcome addiction and you can change your life. (And I loved that he is an avid reader, too.) I felt sorry for Daniel, especially towards the end. He seemed like a good man but he didn't know what to do, how to help.

The best part of the book is the writing. It was very consistent, controlled. I really liked the narration. It was easy, as if Josie were telling the story over coffee on a lazy afternoon. She broke the fourth wall a couple of times but I thought it was necessary. She tells the story as if she was looking through the eyes of the different characters. The author does a great job giving each character a different voice.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT READ
Published 20 days ago by GALLEXIEOPRAH
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
This was a great read that kept me on the edge of the page the whole time. This is a testimony of what can happen when you let unforgiveness cause turmoil in your life.
Published 3 months ago by Ashia
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
An interesting story. A little bit predictable at the end, but okay. The title is more interesting than the book itself, unfortunately.
Published 4 months ago by B. Burbank
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that has stayed with me
I love Cleveland, and it was nice to read a story that took place in the city. I would like to read a couple more books about these characters, and see what is next - that is a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars good book
Quick read... Slow start however, but I like the endless possibilities that could be developed in the uncertain, abrupt conclusion.
Published 6 months ago by natural journey
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this work of the ever changing landscape that cones with a...
Laughter and tears throughout this book. My own story if an addictive alcoholic family rang true in these pages. Recommended reading
Published 7 months ago by Shannon 234
2.0 out of 5 stars Book Description?!?!
Land locked Cleveland? Has the writer ever been to Cleveland? It sits on one of the largest freaking lakes in the whole world. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Terry
1.0 out of 5 stars The Taste Of Salt
To me this was a go no where, do nothing book. I feel the author is presenting a way of life that is totally foreign to me. I would not purchase a book by this author again.
Published 8 months ago by Clara I Rhodes
2.0 out of 5 stars not a great ending
This is the story of a family in crisis and the book leaves the reader hanging as to how the crisis ends
Published 9 months ago by Dchapman
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as expected
The book itself came in perfect condition, however, Southgate didn't live up to the expectation I created for the novel from reading the praise worthy reviews and plot summary.
Published 9 months ago by Ja'Lynn Gray
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More About the Author

Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, published by Algonquin Books, is in stores and available for pre-order now. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left, won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex Award from the American Library Association and was named one of the best novels of 2002 by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post. She is also the author of Another Way to Dance, which won the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for Best First Novel. She received a 2002 New York Foundation for the Arts grant and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her July 2007 essay from the New York Times Book Review, "Writers Like Me" received considerable notice and appears in the anthology Best African-American Essays 2009. Previous non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine,O, Premiere, and Essence.

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