The Salt God's Daughter by Ilie Ruby was recommended for me via Amazon.com. They send you recommendations based on the books you've bought in the past. I read the synopsis and decided it was a must read. My father gifted this book to me - thank you again, Dad.
First and foremost, the cover drew me in. I'm a very visual person and a good matte book cover draws me as the moon draws water, pulling me towards the story. The colors and the picture let the reader know this will be an ethereal experience; and it was.
This is a story of ambition and endurance, a bildungsroman novel tracing three generations of women. I'm not sure if Ruby intended it to be this way, but for me I vividly watched a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter grow up; not only in a traditional aging sense, but through lessons - good and bad - shaping them into the women they would become.
They are all nomads in their own right, but none as much as Diana, the mother of Ruthie and Dolly, grandmother to Naida, Ruthie's eventual daughter. Diana's bizarre way of living and raising her girls is questionable at best, but beneath the struggle of trying to find herself, there is everlasting and plentiful love for her daughters. From her, they learn to trust in themselves, trust in others, and even to trust in the ocean tides.
The book feels like walking through a dream. I kept trying to ground myself in the plot, but this is not possible; and probably not necessary as the story evolved from a Celtic myth. (From Ruby Ilie's website): The book was inspired by the confluence of real life and a Celtic myth,
the latter of which comes from a folksong my mother used to play on the
guitar, “The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.” While the myth of elusive
shapeshifters is the map, the plotlines reflect the real-life
experiences of many women, some known and several unknown.
I find I'm struggling to write a typical review of this novel because it was so fluid. My desire to go to the beach is greater than it's ever been as Ruby's descriptions of the salty ocean and the bougainvillea of Wild Acres, the primary grounded setting of the novel, are lifelike, real, and divine. I enjoyed her incorporation of sea life and the details she gave about the historical California coast line, each minute inkling of life for the women drawn in picturesque proportion to the character's lives.
The novel is an easy read and I think would be well-suited to young adults, although this doesn't mean it isn't for the more veteran reader. The vocabulary is simple, but the story of the women is one any person can relate to, young and old. On this quest to find themselves, the readers sees the many facets of a woman's life, and relates to them in a surreal way.
Ilie Ruby is also the author of The Language of Trees, a book I'll be sure to read in the future.
About the Author (from her website):
Awards include the Edwin L. Moses Prize for Fiction, chosen by T.C.
Boyle; a Kerr Foundation Scholarship, and the Phi Kappa Phi Award for
Creative Fiction. Ruby is also a recipient of the Wesleyan Writer’s
Conference Davidoff Scholarship and the Barbara Kemp Award for
She has worked as 5th grade teacher, a PBS
archeology series contributor, and as an education editor at Houghton
Mifflin Company. Ruby is also a painter, mother to three, and teaches
writing in Boston.
For more information about her and her literary involvement, visit her website at http://www.ilieruby.com/