• Historical Fiction
  • General Fiction and Women Writers
  • YA Fiction
  • Suspense and Thrillers
  • Memoirs and Non Fiction
  • Classics and Mashups

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"The Gilly Salt Sisters" by Tiffany Baker~Cape Cod Salt Marsh "Witches" Live?

Opening lines: "It was the season again for fire in Prospect, a time of cold and ice but also an occasion for rising heat and smoke.  A moment for salt and prophesy, when the future met the past and the old ceded to the new, for better or for worse."
Storytelling in a New England saga- -Cape Cod, salt marshes, mud-thick property, wet and slick from harsh winter storms and treacherous ice.  This is the stuff of a small town's mysterious workings; witchery, superstition, relics of old, a faceless Madonna and traces of history repeating itself. 

Summary :
The author of the New York Times bestselling The Little Giant of Aberdeen County returns with a magic-tinged tale of dreams, family secrets, and betrayals on a New England salt farm.
In the isolated Cape Cod village of Prospect, the Gilly sisters are as different as can be. Jo, a fierce and quiet loner, is devoted to the mysteries of her family's salt farm, while Claire is popular, pretty, and yearns to flee the salt at any cost. But the Gilly land hides a dark legacy that proves impossible to escape. Although the community half-suspects the Gilly sisters might be witches, it doesn't stop Whit Turner, the town's wealthiest bachelor, from forcing his way into their lives. It's Jo who first steals Whit's heart, but it is Claire—heartbroken over her high school sweetheart—who marries him.
Years later, estranged from her family, Claire finds herself thrust back onto the farm with the last person she would have chosen: her husband's pregnant mistress. Suddenly, alliances change, old loves return, and new battle lines are drawn. What the Gilly sisters learn about each other, the land around them, and the power of the salt, will not only change each of their lives forever, it will also alter Gilly history for good.

Particulars of the Book:

Published by:  Grand Central/Hachette Book Group
Pages:  385
Author:  Tiffany Baker
Author's Website: http://tiffanybaker.com

Book may be purchased on AMAZON at:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Gilly-Salt-Sisters-ebook/dp/B004QX07FK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1335099023&sr=1-1

Something About Tiffany Baker :

              Tiffany Baker’s Recipe For A Writing Life
A handful of islands: Belvedere, Aquidneck, Balboa, Manhattan, Corsica, Maui, the UK
Three small children: Two girls and a boy, plump in the cheeks and knees. Strong-willed but sweet when kissed.
One husband
Indecent amounts of chocolate and coffee
A view of a grassy ridge and an old gum tree
Start with the islands. Move from one to another up through your twenties. Add a graduate degree in creative writing from UC Irvine and then a PhD in Victorian literature for extra flavor, plus a smattering of tragic relationships. Move to New York to teach humanities, drink expensive cocktails, and give up on men.
Go hiking on Corsica with your mother. Meet your future husband. Move to England to be with him.
Add the first child to the mix and marinate. Return to the US, to the town where you began. Wonder what you’re doing home again. Gradually, fold in one, additional child until life is thick and hard to stir.
Decide to write a novel. Get pregnant again in the meantime, but refuse to give up writing. Finish the novel and get rejected. Repeat as necessary until the mixture becomes glue-like and unappetizing.
Finally, find the world’s most perfect agent who performs a miracle and sells your novel to the world’s best editor. Revise the novel many times, until it congeals. Do a victory dance.
Begin Book 2, having forgotten how hard writing a book is. Eat obsessive amounts of chocolate and decide what you’re doing isn’t half-bad. Gain an undisclosed amount of weight and take up jogging.
Every day, take a long walk on the grassy ridge. Stop at the gum tree, breathing deeply. Stare across the hill at your house where your children and husband are. Hope your cypress tree isn’t really dying. Hope for enough rain in the coming season. Hope for world peace. Finally, really, really hope people enjoy your book. Hope they like the second one even more.
Bon Vivant!
The Dame's Look At The Gilly Salt Sisters:
The Gilly Salt Sisters takes place in a small New England town similar, if not just, Falmouth...near Woods Hole. Of course the original New England colonies were not only populated by puritans and those pious believers in the straight and narrow path, but they were seasoned by island peoples...slaves from the Caribbean, from Africa and from other exotic places where superstition and "witchcraft," magical and mystical things followed them.  These characteristics were met with the same that underpined some of those who fled England and Scotland, as well.  In Massachusettes, Salem had experienced the witch trials...the areas of Cape Cod and up as far as Gloucester were aware of these things. The people of New England don't easily forget~it's in their blood. Who wouldn't be influenced by the Gilly Salt Sisters?

In this novel (and in actuality, as a matter of fact) the salt's unique properties, historic and mystical to begin with, were given a reverence~they were fraught with healing powers, the power to keep and preserve foods and meats, originally the power to exchange like money, to season cooked foods; and, quite mysteriously to change the well-being of businesses and the over all climates of the town.  Only the Gilly family and specifically the Gilly women were capable of handling the harshness of the salt marsh, harvesting it and controlling the delivery of the salt throughout the town and region.  They were afforded a sort of begruding prominence and fearsomeness in town.  Their ability to throw their own bag of salt into the yearly, autumn bonfire to predict the future of the town in a sort of ancient festival, solidified the superstition and mysticism that surrounded them; that made them weird and outcast.

Within this confine of prejudice and their wild, muddy marsh of a farm life, Jo and Claire Gilly grew up and struggled with their fates along with their single mother.  They are marvelous characters as different as Cain and Able.  Jo the Abel of the two: dark-haired, faithful to the marsh and salt, protective of loved ones, strong and rough around the edges. And, Claire; the Cain, weak in spirit, red-haired and tempermental, selfish, working to tear down the salt and all it represents in the town and to her past. Gloriously well developed characters that stand up in realism.  So real in fact, that you believe they're actual people.

Throughout the book we find abberations in the tale, however, that changes all perceptions.  The men and women involved with the Gillys aren't always what they appear to be and the lives of the Gillys and townspeople overlap in a multitude of ways.  All this causing their histories to intersect for good and for bad.  This is a story rich in family dynamics of love and betrayal, mystery and revelation, mysticism and romance.  The sea and the marshes that hem them in play against the gothic themes an cause the book to take on a dark tone...so like Poe in some instances.

Tiffany Baker knows how and when to pull the strings that deepen our connections with her characters and the momentum surrounding the Gilly Salt Sisters.  The spector of mystery and revelation hangs before us as she builds and hints and drops us through Jo's discoveries.  But even as the other charcters are brought in and layers are developed, we still remain in the dark until the climax of the book.

I love this kind of mystery mixed with a grand and sweeping tale of a family that mysteriously winds its way through a history. A family unwittingly repeating itself until somehow it finally finds a way to break the bond that held it captive.  And through that freshly broken wound restores something of itself through a healing, a new trust, a new love and life of hope.  Even though grief and punishment remain behind. Even though some of the connections are thin and come from wild roots.

The Gilly Salt Sisters is a great book in the order of a sort of Jane Smiley's "Thousand Acres," but I think it's richer and it's dug into more detail.  I loved the book and hope you get a chance to read it very soon! 

5 stars!!


PS:  You'll never look at salt the same again...I'm now eating only sea salt.



This sounds so different from her first book. I can't wait to read it.


It is a wonderful book! Couldn't stop reading it...an all nighter! :]

Melissa @ Confessions of an Avid Reader

Wonderful review, Deb. I'm definitely adding this one to my wish list.

Share your thoughts!

Blogaholic Designs”=