The Salt God's Daughter

The Salt God's Daughter

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by Ilie Ruby
     
 

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Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows Ruthie and her older sister Dolly as they struggle for survival in a place governed by an enchanted ocean and exotic folklore. Guided by a mother ruled by magical, elaborately-told stories of the full moons, which she draws from The Old Farmer's Almanac, the two

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Overview

Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows Ruthie and her older sister Dolly as they struggle for survival in a place governed by an enchanted ocean and exotic folklore. Guided by a mother ruled by magical, elaborately-told stories of the full moons, which she draws from The Old Farmer's Almanac, the two girls are often homeless, often on their own, fiercely protective of each other, and unaware of how far they have drifted from traditional society as they carve a real life from their imagined stories.

Imbued with a traditional Scottish folktale and hints of Jewish mysticism, The Salt God's Daughter examines the tremulous bonds between sisters and the enduring power of maternal love —a magical tale that presents three generations of extraordinary women who fight to transcend a world that is often hostile to those who are different.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ruby’s second novel (after The Language of Trees) imbues the complex relationships between mothers and daughters with legends and feminist mysticism to create a confusing family history dotted with magical realism. Ruthie and Dolly’s mother, Diana, is dramatic and unreliable, part Pied Piper, part con artist. The family drifts (both girls’ fathers are absent and unexplained), but Diana finds herself drawn to Long Beach, Calif., where she’s a housekeeper at a motel and watches the omnipresent sea lions. There, the girls find a settled life until alcoholism and depression hasten their mother’s death and they move into the care of nuns at a home for teenage girls. The nuns are both overwhelmed by the worldly life of their charges and caring stewards of womanhood. As a young woman, with one brief marriage already behind her, Ruthie moves back to work at the motel, now a nursing home, where she falls in love with a mysterious fisherman she calls “the Salt God.” Family secrets and otherworldly powers slowly unfold until all is explained. Though Ruby’s writing is elegant and insightful, particularly in revealing the ways in which the mother-daughter bond can end in disappointment, the long time line and haphazard mythologies muddle the tale. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Brick House. (Sept.)
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Praise for The Salt God's Daughter

“…a lyrical, luxuriantly mystical meditation on being female. The Salt God's Daughter is astonishing and unusual because selkies--mythical shape-shifting creatures who are human beings on land and seals in the water--are part of the story. In the otherworldly universe Ruby creates, the existence of selkies do not detract from the authenticity of the characters. Quite the opposite: the myth sharpens the characters' humanity… Ruby's novel comes as close as possible to achieving a deep understanding of the possibilities of being female.” —Leora Tanebaum, The Huffington Post

"Ruby’s second novel (after The Language of Trees) imbues the complex relationships between mothers and daughters with legends and feminist mysticism . . . Ruby’s writing is elegant and insightful...” —Publishers Weekly

"The book beautifully evokes scenes of two girls adrift in the late 70s and early 80s bohemian beach culture...the result is a breathtaking, fiercely feminine take on American magical realism. Ruby spins sweeping mythologies without straying far from the story of a young woman just trying to survive." —Interview Magazine

"Lushly woven with elements of folklore, Ruby’s novel is a captivating inquiry into the generational, wayward bonds of mothers and daughters."—Booklist

“This is a bewitching tale of lives entangled in lushly layered fables of the moon and sea.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The characters and the setting hunger for each other …the ocean is everywhere, its saltiness fills the pages, lingers on the characters… Lovely in its complexity, Ruby has written in many layers. Yes, her book is mystical and fanciful, but at the same time it is intensely raw, and often unsettling.” —Bookslut

“Certainly other readers have had this experience: you discover a book that is thrilling in its truth about the world, a book that captures your imagination so completely that you actually feel scared by the thought you might have never held this book in your hands; that you might have missed it completely. Ilie Ruby’s The Salt God’s Daughter is that kind of book.” —Stacy Bierlein, The Rumpus

“Three generations of indelibly original women wrestle with the confines of their lives against a shimmering backdrop of magic, folklore, and deep-buried secrets. About the bonds of sisters, mothers, and daughters, and the refusal to accept limits, this is a story as heartbreaking, gritty, magical, and real as a waking dream, with a sense of place so immediate, you can feel the ocean’s salt spray. To say I loved this book is an understatement.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Open The Salt God's Daughter and it is as if you are walking through a door, where things are at once utterly recognizable and utterly mysterious, like life, and like an ancient fairy tale, or a myth from a lost continent, another time and place. Ilie Ruby offers up a story that is both exquisitely fantastical at the same time that it maintains the feel of unblinking realism. This one's a story in which to lose one's self in the best possible way.” —Joyce Maynard

“Magical and gripping, The Salt God's Daughter captivated me from the very first sentence and has stayed with me long after I finished reading. A lyrical exploration of the timeless search for belonging and the complicated bonds between mothers, daughters and sisters, I devoured the novel in one sitting and then immediately ordered copies for my own mother and sister." —Jillian Cantor, author of The Transformation of Things

“Propulsive, mythic, and rhythmically mastered....a singular, knock-out work of fiction about love and the evolution of identity." —James Ragan

"What a rare pleasure this novel is, a kind of embarrassment of riches, Ilie Ruby has given us a work glowing with the emotive illuminations of two sisters, caught in exile, in homelessness, in a parentless subculture which they both survive by the pure transcendent powers of their personal fantasy-life and myth. The bond of sisterhood prevails. I cannot recommend this passionate look at family and society and outcast-ness enough. To be a part of their journey is to look at our own travels through deprivation, rejection, poverty and find their quiet ultimate triumph, to feel their fulfillment, as if it were our own. I look forward to what this talented writer offers us next!" —Leora Skolkin-Smith author of Hysteria

"Ruby's book is an eloquent unfolding of language brilliantly crafted. The Salt God's Daughter is beautiful writing of life, love, relationships between mother and daughter, families of one's own making, and the push/pull of the moon on the course of relationships. Lovely!"-Katherine Pinard, McIntyre's Books

Library Journal
In her second novel (after The Language of Trees), Ruby traces three generations of women in a single family. Diana, a charming but unreliable, hard-drinking single mother, gives daughters Dolly and Ruth a rootless existence. As an adult escaping an abusive marriage, Ruth returns to work at a former motel in Long Beach, CA, now a nursing home, where she had spent the happiest and most stable years of her childhood. There she falls in love with Graham, a Scottish fisherman who appears only at the full moon and who disappears entirely after the birth of their daughter, Naida, an unusual child with the gift of prophecy. Naida (a variant of Naiad, or "water nymph") is as strangely drawn to the sea as her grandmother Diana (Roman goddess of the moon) had been by the moon. Throughout, Ruby stresses the importance of legends, myths, symbols, and the stories we tell ourselves, as well as the emotional strength and courage of her troubled female characters and the enduring bonds between them. VERDICT Despite its derivative title (it seems as if every other novel these days is about someone's daughter or wife) this is a lyrical, multigenerational coming-of-age tale that will appeal to fans of magical realism.—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
Kirkus Reviews
When a blue moon rises, mistakes can be undone, lost children can find their homes, and sea lions can shed their skins. The selkie myth lies at the heart of Ruby's (The Language of Trees, 2010) second novel. Born with a webbed foot, young Naida yearns for her mysterious father. But to understand his role in her life, she must first understand the stories of the women who came before her. The story swirls back to begin with her mother's tale. Ruthie and her sister, Dolly, grow up on the road with their mother, Diana, sleeping in their car, cursing in Yiddish, eluding mud slides and even picking strawberries as day workers. Ritually consulting her Farmer's Almanac, like Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Diana moves her small family on. Is Diana simply restless, or is she fleeing something or someone? Eventually, Diana finagles her way into a real job at the beachside Twin Palms hotel. Her daughters embrace not only school, but also the wildness of the sea and town life. After Diana's death, the girls strangely find themselves under the guardianship of three kind nuns. On the cusp of womanhood, however, Ruthie is attacked, and as she grieves, she weeps seven tears into the sea. Just as the moon cycles, so do women's lives, and Ruthie returns to Twin Palms, which has become the Wild Acres retirement home, where she cares for others. Under a blue moon, Ruthie meets Graham, a Scottish fisherman whose soul calls to hers. Graham's love for Ruthie is intense, yet his presence ebbs and flows like the tide. What gifts has he bestowed on his daughter, Naida? This is a bewitching tale of lives entangled in lushly layered fables of the moon and sea.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781619020023
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
09/04/2012
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.16(h) x 1.18(d)

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